Today was the drop date for Google’s launch. As TechCrunch reported, “….like Data Availability and Facebook Connect, Google’s Friend Connect will be a way to securely send personal profile data, including friend lists, presence/status information, etc., to third party applications….” Google wants to obviously become the central hub for personal info. Whomever stores the personal info, by defacto, becomes the “social networker”. Own the end user data…own the user. Thus, the article suggests Google needs big sites to partner with…so the littles one follow along down the road with Open Social.
A busy week for such annoucements. MySpace launched their “Data Availability” which allows for data portability. Facebook launched “Facebook Connect” which allows users to take their friend connections and data points as captured in one of these social networks.
Here is a thought experiment that is a bit tangential? What if the API model on Facebook was flipped? What if sites, lets say a news site, opened up their API, and allowed users to upload widgets onto their site? For example, what if you started your day every morning with NYT.com. What if NYT.com opened up their APIs and allowed for third party widget upload? Instead of going to Facebook or MySpace for one’s “social networking”, a user could continue using their favorite site (in this case a news site). Or, what if I like NYT but dont want to crawl the five or ten other news sites…instead I grab their widgets and upload them onto a page of NYT where I can get a side by side snapshot for that vertical’s offering? A Yahoo Finance killer?
The wider web, taking a playbook from the open source movement, could develop widgets for news sites, sports sites, weather sites, etc. Instead of all these “silly” Facebook apps, site specific apps might unleash some creative juices and allow apps that appeal to a broader audience (ie the ones that visit NYT.com or CNN.com, etc). Open Social could power this exercise as it would be helpful to have a central repository with all this app creation.
The question that still needs to play out is who really owns the underlying data and what privacy concerns should be brought to the forefront for a healthy, public debate and discussion? For example, Google still captures one’s search queries and stores the info for filtering and analysis to make their search results “more accurate”. I understand this tradeoff…but lets say I didnt want Google to use my info and/or I wanted to wipe away my info from their servers. Can I? Right now..not that I am aware of.
Same holds true for the social networks. Removing a Facebook account or MySpace account isnt exactly easy nor trivial for a user. I wouldnt be so confident if I chose to remove my account that my information isnt being stored for some future use?
The topic of user data and ownership becomes really fascinating with the advent of mobile and GPS based location data. If every new phone has a GPS system with long/lat info being continuously sent back to a carrier for a given person’s whereabouts, it is not hard to concoct the various scenarios where algorithmic or predictive modeling could garner benevolent or malevolent situations for the end user. What if I dont want Sprint, or AT&T to monitor my exact whereabouts and / or sell this information to a third party who wants to mine this…even if in an aggregated format?
Interesting developments as it relates to personal data, storage, privacy and the numerous tradeoffs from our online behaviors.