Who Owns Your Data? (Scoble/Facebook)

Update 2:45pm (time from Scoble’s blog): Rober Scoble has been let back into Facebook.

Robert Scoble, popular blogger, internet star has had his Facebook account disabled after running script from an unknown company against his Facebook account in an attempt to copy his “social graph” to other networks.

Now, the running of scripts against Facebook is definitely against the terms of service of Facebook.  However, is running scripts against your own data wrong?  It is really hard to argue this because the Terms of Service for a website is for the website site as a whole which in affect includes your data.

So it calls into question, who exactly owns the data on the social network sites?  We all automatically assume that because we put the data there, add the friends, make the connections, install the applications (linking them to their respective site where applicable) that we own that data.  After all the data is about us.  We input it, why should we not own it?  That is where the privacy issues come from.  If you don’t own the data on a social networking site, then  who does own the data, and what can they legally do with that data?  These are some serious issues to concern yourself with.  If you do not own that data and the site can do with it whatever it pleases, then you basically have zero privacy when it comes to your data on that particular site.

The solution for the problem at hand is to rework the terms of service to allow a user to copy the data they input.  There should also be switches in place to dictate what data can be exported to certain people.  Just like you can decide what’s public and so forth on Facebook, you should be allowed to decide what data your “friends” can export out.  A lot of people would probably turn this off, but that does not mean that the feature is not functionable.

I think first and foremost though, it needs to be determined who owns what data.  And it is a decision that all social networks should make (I am looking at you MySpace, LinkedIn, & Twitter).  Once the line has been drawn then the users can decide who they want to have their data.  I’m pretty sure most people are not going to cancel their accounts based solely on this issue (though several might).  But as the internet becomes a haven for your personal data on websites, who owns your data and the privacy implications of that question should be considered more and more.

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