September 15, 2009

Liberating Your Data From Other People

Ragavan recently posted some interesting thoughts on DataLiberation that got me thinking:

Another factor to consider is how you define what "your data" is. For example, if you look at it as just exporting your photos out of Picasa and importing them to flickr, I'd posit that's a rather simplistic view. A large part of what makes your data useful and valuable is all the relationships associated with it. I share my photos with my friends and family, I license some under Creative Commons, I group them, I tag them — all of these make my data very context rich. How do you liberate this context? And if you do, what does it mean to import them elsewhere?

On a public forum I used to frequent, one user used to immediately delete all his posts whenever he lost an argument. In the context of Data Liberation, this could be considered a good thing: his posts were his data, not the property of the company (or rather, the volunteer community member) hosting the data. But on the other hand, his behavior also made entire conversations completely inscrutable to everyone else in the community. What used to be an interesting public dialogue between two people suddenly became one person talking at a wall.

It’s very easy to assume that the things we create are ours, and not some corporation’s: but what happens when you give what you created to someone, or to a community, or to the public? Does the ownership of that information become theirs to any extent?

If you take a photograph and give it to your grandma, what kind of rights should you have to take it back? Should grandma have the freedom to copy the photo you gave her—by posting it to your photo stream on Flickr—to her computer’s hard drive before you delete it from Flickr? Or should you have the freedom to be able to magically zap your data from her hard drive?

Who actually owns the data?

© Atul Varma 2020