Do you own your data ?

       Last week in the metroblogger meetup, we got into an interesting conversation where I had put forth my adamant viewpoint on why I hate orkut & deleted my orkut account long ago as it does not protect my privacy.  I argued that it make my private data semi-public( or public) and I do not have any control over it.

 There were two issues that I was trying to point out.

      One is that many of the social software (including orkut) has a serious design flaw where it does not allow me as a user to set my data  private/public. .

       Also once I decided to make my data made public(semi-public) there is a cost that I have to bear. An example that we discussed then was how a marketer could mine the data available to know a whole lot of stuff like my preferences, relationships, likes & dislikes and bombard me with intrusive marketing offers. Another jarring example of problems of a  similar nature is the following: (via smartmobs).

Many companies have started using social sites like Myspace , facebook etc to do research about candidates before hiring them.


  IHT article says "when a small consulting company in Chicago was looking to hire a summer intern this month,the company's president went online to check on a promising candidate who had just graduated from the University of Illinois.At Facebook, a popular social networking site,the executive found the candidate's Web page with this description of his interests:"smokin' blunts" (cigars hollowed out and stuffed with marijuana), shooting people and obsessive sex,all described in vivid slang.It did not matter that the student was clearly posturing.He was done."A lot of it makes me think,what kind of judgment does this person have?" said the company's president,Brad Karsh."Why are you allowing this to be viewed publicly, effectively, or semipublicly?"Many companies that recruit on college campuses have been using search engines like Google and Yahoo to conduct background checks on seniors looking for their first job.But now,college career counselors and other experts say, some recruiters are looking up applicants on social networking sites like Facebook,MySpace,Xanga and Friendster,where college students often post risqué or teasing photographs and provocative comments about drinking, recreational drug use and sexual exploits in what some mistakenly believe is relative privacy.”

    One could argue that the same argument applies for blogs as well and infact it applies to any content/article that gets posted/published about you onto the web.

     If information about you is posted in other websites by some one else  then you clearly don’t have any control what is posted about you. But if it is your own blog  then atleast it make sense to blog just about your ego and not your id. For the uninitiated, , these two concepts were put forward by Frued, simply put  id is ‘what you are” and ego “what you want others to think of you”

     This entire discussion point out to a glaring market gap which is just dying to get filled up.  If there are gazillion number of  ways to add information onto the web then what are ways to remove information from the web. Say for instance I want to remove all the data that pertains to me from the google index, yahoo index, various social software, usenet, groups etc because I don't want others to know the data that exists here all along. Probably this was a functionality which was not thought to be necessity by forefathers of interenet & the web when they designed but it turns out to be a serious necessity today.

   It is not clear so far to me how this need will get solved technologically in today’s web but I am sure market will figure out a way.

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