Whose data is it anyway?

From Who owns your friends, an interesting article by Erica Naone of MIT Technology Review:

Technology blogger Robert Scoble wanted help moving contact information for his 5,000 Facebook friends into his Microsoft Outlook address book. He turned to Joseph Smarr, chief platform architect at Plaxo… Smarr gave Scoble a short program to test out, which automatically paged through Scoble’s Facebook connections and extracted the names, birthdays, and e-mail addresses of his friends.

There was just one problem. The program triggered alerts at Facebook, which disabled Scoble’s account. “My identity disappeared,” Scoble says. “If I was your friend, I turned gray–all my information went gray. ” Scoble was transformed from a man with a small town of Facebook friends into a nonperson.

This article illustrates the problems associated with trusting companies (social network providers or others) with your private, confidential information. We can’t get by without giving some information out to companies but the amount of information that people give out willingly boggles the mind.

In the same issue of MIT Tech Review, Bjarne Stroustrup, founder of C++, speaking on the future of the web says:

“The total end of privacy. Governments, politicians, criminals, and friends will trawl through years of accumulated data (ours and what others collected) with unbelievably sophisticated tools. Obscurity and time passed will no longer be covers.”

Yikes.

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