DataPortability and the Web Worker

DataPorbaility LogoThere has been a lot of buzz lately around the term data portability.  Recently web heavyweights such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Plaxo, and other online identity providers have been joining the Dataportability.org organization, but it’s unclear to most people what Data Portability is all about.  This video seeks to explain the concept in layman’s terms.  We encourage you to spread this video to your web working colleagues because of all the potential benefits data portability provides.

We’ve told you before about the pluses of having an online persona.  I’m sure many of you want to have online personas, but the time involved might be too daunting.  For example, who has time to keep Facebook, MySpace, Plaxo, and Twitter up to date; and have any time to actually get project work done?  To keep these services relevant to your professional life, they must be kept up to date.  This is where data portability comes in to the equation.

Practically, what does data portability do?

The short answer is that having data portability will enable web workers to manage their online identities across multiple services much more easily.  Imagine being able to:

  • export your friends contact data out of MySpace and import them into Facebook.
  • If you get a new phone number, being able to update it one place and having that change transfer to multiple online services such as Plaxo, MySpace, and WordPress.
  • Easily migrate your blog from WordPress to MoveableType
  • Update your status once, rather than in Facebook, Twitter, Jaiku, and others.

Great, but just one thing…

This might raise a red flag for those of us who use the web for earning a living and keeping up to date with our social circles.  That is the question of privacy.  Perhaps we don’t want our business contact knowing which bar we were at last night with our friends.  Just ask the small town mayor who is in hot water because of questionable pictures on MySpace or the intern who lost his job because he played hookie from work.

The DataPortability Group is addressing this issue of privacy.  A likely workaround is creating groups that will allow you to segregate which information flows to which segment of your contacts and applications.  This way, you can classify contacts into ‘friends’ and ‘business contacts’ and ensure information and updates flow to the correct segment of your contact group.

Whose data is it anyways?
Walled Gaden
The problem data portability aims to solve is this segmentation of the web, also known as the ‘walled garden‘.  Web users are revolting to the idea of the walled garden even though when they sign up for these services, the user agreement clearly states that your data is essentially the service provider’s property.  That is, when you upload your photos on Facebook, your image is data about you that happens now to belong to Facebook.  So unfortunately, if you get fed up with Facebook and decide to move to MySpace, unless you are willing to spend a lot of time extracting photos and contact details out one by one, you’re bound to lose loads of personal data.

Rest assured, the Data Portability Group all about fixing this issue.  In the meantime, we caution you to beware of the rights you’re signing over when you submit your personal data to the latest Web 2.0 wonder-site!

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