Blogosphere: Privacy in a Web 2.0 world

Earlier this month, Facebook came under fire from blogger Robert Scoble after the social networking giant banned Scoble’s account for trying to export his data — including the e-mail addresses and birthdays of more than 5,000 contacts — to rival site Plaxo. And while Scoble’s account was later reinstated, the situation has sparked quite a debate as to who owns the content a user builds in social networking sites like Facebook or Myspace.

“I am trusting Facebook to protect my data so it is safe from malicious hackers and not sell it to malicious third parties like spammers or telemarketers,” wrote Dare Obasanjo. “There is a key difference between Robert taking my personal information I shared with him on Facebook and importing into Outlook versus importing it into Plaxo Pulse. In the former case, Robert is taking data I shared with him and viewing it in a different application.”

But Obasanjo says someone who shares another person’s personal info with Plaxo is sharing the details with “an entity that is synonymous with spam.”

Blogger Debbie Weil wrote that users should not be shocked to learn that they don’t own the data they input to Web 2.0 sites and hopes this serves as a wake up call. “So if you’re using Gmail or Yahoo mail or Flickr or Delicious or YouTube or belong to Facebook or LinkedIn or another of the popular social networks, you’ve given up complete control of your personal information,” she said. “You don’t, so to speak, ‘own’ it anymore. Surprised? Don’t be. Just don’t forget that your personal data may also include your photos and videos and your carefully assembled networks of contacts and their information. And if an online service decides you’re persona non grata, your stuff/data/digital trail is gone.”

But Alan Stern argued that Scoble’s actions may lead to changing standards at social networking sites. “The net positive from this is that we will certainly see another push towards data portability — that is being able to make a zip file of all of your goods on one social network to take to another social network,” he said. “Scoble has a large enough following to start a strong tidal wave. This is a good thing.”

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