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I want control of my data

Friday, November 23, 2007 by Dave Winer.

A picture named uma.gifA few weeks ago I not only gave $100 to MoveOn.org, but I also encouraged readers of this blog to do so. Now I regret it. Why? Well, I gave them the money thinking I was supporting a group that was working to end the war in Iraq. Now they've launched a campaign against Facebook, a naive one, and in what way is that consistent with the goals of the organization I gave money to?  Permalink to this paragraph

Every time Facebook moves, they stir up stuff. It happened when they first implemented the innovative news feed feature. All of a sudden you could keep up to date on who's-with-who without visiting their profile page. The users of Facebook had been counting on lack of interest, on obscurity, to keep information they consider private out of view of people, who, because they're "friends" have been granted access to the information. By automating the process, much as RSS readers automated news gathering for blogs and newspapers, the information was no longer obscure. Permalink to this paragraph

Facebook held their ground, and now the news feed is part of the fabric of their community, and people presumably are a bit more careful about what they post. That's what they should have been doing all along, a safe computing expert would likely say. Permalink to this paragraph

Now they're breaking down another barrier and of course there's a sense of violation, and I'm not saying that Facebook is right, but before we claim they're wrong, let's understand what's going on.  Permalink to this paragraph

There are thorny issues here, but we want these companies to give up control of our information, and we don't want them to be overly scared of public opinion as they do it.  Permalink to this paragraph

And this is hardly the most important giving up of control. Most important, I want them to give me control of my data.  Permalink to this paragraph

So before we overly politicize the leading edge of technology, let's get together on what actually does and doesn't serve the user's interest. Permalink to this paragraph

I want Netflix and Yahoo to give me an XML version of my movie ratings, for me to decide what to do with. I've been asking for this for a couple of years, I still don't have it. This is information I created. I want to keep a copy. I want to make sure that Netflix knows about all my Yahoo ratings and vice versa. I'd like to give a copy to Facebook (assuming they agree to not disclose it) and maybe to Amazon, so they can recommend products I might want to purchase (again keeping it to themselves). I want to begin a negotiation with various vendors, where I give them something of value, and they give me back something of value. Permalink to this paragraph

The leaders of Silicon Valley begrudgingly gave up their view of us as couch potatoes, now they think of us as generators of content they can put ads on (and pay us nothing). We still need to work on that respect thing. When I have an XML file here on my local hard drive that they want they'll make me a better offer. Two companies that are not as shiny as they used to be, Netflix and Yahoo, have the power to take a leadership role in a what will be the next revolution of the Internet, but neither of them are moving. Permalink to this paragraph

That's something worth fighting for, because once one vendor gives us power over our data, the dominoes will start falling, I bet it'll happen very quickly.  Permalink to this paragraph

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Last update: 11/23/2007; 9:08:14 PM Pacific. "It's even worse than it appears."

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