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disturb.pngThe brouhaha about Robert Scoble being banned, and then re-instated, on Facebook for trying to move all his data off the site, is the tip of the iceberg about electronic privacy and data portability. And, as Doc Searls points out, neither Scoble nor Facebook are the real issue. Searls describes it as dependence vs independence; I see it as a civil liberties issue that can’t be taken lightly. Apparently, a lot of people don’t worry about privacy, but if you do, I have some suggestions.
The real issue is who owns your information, and that issue is going to snowball in 2008. as privacy becomes the issue of the year.
Facebook is just one example of a site with privacy issues. Here’s what Yahoo! does to your data, and I’m sure they’re not the only site that does this:

Not long ago, Yahoo mail wiped out all of my mail AND all of my contacts because I hadn’t used my Yahoo mail account in a couple of months. If I wanted to avoid having this happen again, they said, I could sign up for Yahoo premium and they wouldn’t delete my contacts again.

Those were MY contacts. I should be able to download that data, move it, put it on a disk or do whatever else I want with it.
Are there privacy issues involved in my putting YOUR email and contact information on some other site so I can access it? You bet? Because anywhere I put it is going to have its own privacy policy that you may not have approved or even been aware of.
Maybe Yahoo notified me with an email to my Yahoo account, that I wasn’t looking at. Catch 22 … I’ll never know. That’s not the point.
Forget the warnings about whether we share too much information online. The real issue is who owns what we share. And since there are no real rules yet, here’s what we’re going to have to do in the meantime:

o decide how we want our data handled in social networks and make demands of the socnets we join
o insist on plain English privacy policies from sites we join and vote with our feet when they don’t provide them
o make sure we keep backups of our data in more than one place and more than one format (I have my 15 years worth of email contacts on my iPod, my external backup drive, on a disk, and in a printout. Do you?)
o read those tiny print privacy statements we get from credit card companies, etc, etc, and opt out of letting them share our information freely

But hey, all the news is not grim. Many advances have been made toward an open Internet, privacy controls, and data ownership as Save the has noted.
Posted by B.L. Ochman
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