Robert Scoble reports that Facebook has kicked him off their site, citing that it appears he was running a script. In their letter, Facebook says,
I’d just read the article in Wired about scraping, and the ways companies were building businesses around taking data from a service and building a product around it. This is something I haven’t fully formed an opinion on, because it just seems so fragile. If the “mother ship” company scuttles your effort, you’re out of luck pretty quickly.
But What About PERSONAL Use of Your Own Data?
Here’s where I think Scoble’s efforts were. I don’t think he was out trying to build a startup out of the data he surfed. My guess, by the text of his post (he mentions he’ll update us later), was that he was using someone’s tool, probably something someone pitched him as something cool. In my mind, maybe he was trying to spring his data free, maybe even just to see if it could be done. (Total speculation, and not especially important to my post overall).
Robert points us to DataPortability.org, and it’s a pretty interesting bit of info. (One note: the “calls to action” on the site are fairly muddied in the design. I wanted to get involved, but the most prominent thing I saw was a button I could add to my blog). It’s a site that seeks to standardize data portability. Boy, I can say amen to that.
But where will the lines go? Where will we be able to move OUR stuff, but not take a company’s metadata with us? Where are the lines between the value we’ve added to a site by tagging a photo, or contributing in some other social computing way, and how will companies communicate that difference to us? Meaning, are our TAGS in flickr OUR data or FLICKR’s data?
Maybe The Data Wars Have Begun
Perhaps it’s now a time where we, the users of social networks, will start thinking of our data as a source of value, and perhaps we’ll have to better understand the social contracts between what we’re using on these sites and what these sites are using from us. The more we give away, the less value it will have ultimately for our own use, and yet, there’s a trade that has to happen, lest everything we like about the Internet (free, fluid, fast) suddenly become a losing proposition for these organizations, who mostly are using our data for educating advertisers.
I’m not sure my take on this, but wanted to bring it to you for consideration. On one side, I want to be able to move my personal data from site to site, because if I spent the effort building it in there, I want to get it back out. On another side, is the friending process of Facebook THEIR data or is it mine? My friends, yes, but is the link and the semantic data built between us something that Facebook owns?
What’s your take?