Facebook is holding an event today and one of the big news coming out of the event is regarding their move towards data portability. According to Techcrunch,
At today’s Facebook event in Palo Alto, Mark Zuckerberg just announced a feature that allows users to port their data off of Facebook, “People own and have control over all info they put into Facebook and “Download Your Information” enables people to take stuff with them,” says Zuckerberg.
David Recordon describes the feature as allowing you download everything off your profile, including all of your wall posts and all of your photos, into a zip file.
This is a great news. I have been advocating that users own their data and even correlated it to the Libertarian ideas of personal property rights. Almost three years back when Robert Scoble tried to highlight the importance of data portability with respect to Facebook (for which he got banned), I wrote a post arguing that users should own their own data.
In the Libertarian speak (disclaimer: I am not a Libertarian and I am just borrowing the term from them), data ownership is similar to property ownership. Understanding this is very crucial to long term security of your identity and data.
Even though millions of users don’t care or don’t know about the rightful ownership of their data, we cannot let companies like Google, Facebook, etc. walk away with our data. Google took the step towards ensuring data portability with the Data Liberation Front sometime back.
People usually don’t look to see if they can get their data out of a product until they decide one day that they want to leave For this reason, we always encourage people to ask these three questions before starting to use a product that will store their data:
- Can I get my data out at all?
- How much is it going to cost to get my data out?
- How much of my time is it going to take to get my data out?
The ideal answers to these questions are:
- Nothing more than I’m already paying.
- As little as possible.
Google may not stick to their “Don’t be evil” motto completely but their efforts towards data portability deserves some kudos. So far, Facebook had continued with their Roach Motel approach in spite of calls from pundits to open up. But I started having some hope when David Recordon, who played a big role in OpenID and Open Web Foundation, joined Facebook. Last week, I was attending the GigaOm Bunker Session on Open Source in the Enterprise and David Recordon was one of the panelists. While answering a question, he said “Users own their data”. My initial reaction was an outright dismissal (through a tweet, of course)
David Recordon says users own data. Yeah right. #gigaom
Later, I was wondering if Facebook is working towards letting users take their data out but I never got a chance to confirm it. Today’s announcement confirms my suspicions and it is the right thing to do. Kudos to Facebook team for doing what is right for their users. I would have preferred if Facebook had allowed programatic access to take data out (which will be more closer to data portability) but I can live with the Zip file download. This is definitely a big day in the data portability world.