Privacy or Portability, Which Will It Be?

Facebook has been pilloried for not caring enough about our privacy. But now they face a call to offer data portability, something that could, if not carefully designed, compromise the privacy we so wanted last year.
Facebook disabled blogger Robert Scoble’s account after he ran automated scripts against the site. The site’s Terms of Service say that you agree not to “use automated scripts to collect information from or otherwise interact with the Service or the Site.”
The general consensus seems to be that this was Scoble’s data and so he should be able to do whatever he likes with it. But that information he’s trying to get wasn’t all his. Apparently he wanted information about his “social graph”: the friendships he has recorded on Facebook and profile data about those friends.
Even if Scoble’s Facebook friends agreed to let him view their data on Facebook, they didn’t agree to let him take that information wherever he wants to do with what he wants. He could use a screen scraping program to grab data that they consider just-among-friends and stick it out in public without any regard for their privacy settings. You might say, “Scoble wouldn’t do that” but it’s Facebook’s responsibility to see that it doesn’t happen.
Data portability could be designed into Facebook in such a way that it doesn’t compromise user’s privacy. At the very least, an opt-in to profile sharing outside Facebook would need to be provided. Allowing uncontrolled screen scraping is not the answer.

How to Safeguard Your Privacy Online

Privacy on the Internet — as Facebook’s Beacon advertising platform and other examples make clear — is not something that anyone can expect. It can be achieved, however, and maintained. Here’s how.

The Copyright Gift Basket: What’s In It For You?

It’s that time of year again, when many of us are rushing from mall to mall (or site to site) to buy gifts for all those important people in our lives. A Wii for a few lucky ones, a Zune for the less fortunate, and a Ze Frank action figure for that burgeoning web video director. But we’re not the only ones getting ready to hand out presents.

Lawmakers from both parties just introduced an intellectual property bill that reads like it’s straight off the wish list of the entire entertainment industry. Also advancing in Congress is a controversial bill that aims to strengthen copyright enforcement at universities. And finally, there’s been a few gifts from the courts this week, as well. Google won against dirty picture publisher Perfect10, and the same company also suffered a defeat against Visa and other billing service providers. So what does all of this mean for you?

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Question for Facebook: Better to Ask First, or Apologize Later?

An old management adage says ‘tis better to apologize later, than ask for permission first.’

This is typically intended to encourage entrepreneurial risk-taking, or ambitious career moves, (e.g ‘Do I ask to call on that customer? Or just do it and apologize later if necessary to my higher ups/board?’) In other words, this ‘rule’ is one we tap when we’re concerned about heading-off institutional inertia, and road blocks to our own — or our company’s — progress.

Now, it’s easy to see how adding a creative app or feature to your site might be something you want to try first, and only apologize for later, if it doesn’t work.

But consider Facebook’s latest mea culpa. Plenty of users grew upset over the information sharing features of Facebook’s Beacon ad program. Today founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg finally responded:

“We’ve made a lot of mistakes building this feature, but we’ve made even more with how we’ve handled them. We simply did a bad job with this release and I apologize for it.”

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To Save Its Bacon, Facebook Weakens Beacon

Update: Three weeks is a long time on the Internet. It was on Nov. 6 that I raised the question: Is Facebook Beacon a Privacy Nightmare? Three days later, my next post, Facebook’s Cruel Intentions elicited some response from the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company, which responded and clarified their position. But soon after, the situation got a bit out of control. MoveOn.org got involved and the whole thing started to look like a major PR disaster.

In a classic example of marketing doublespeak, the company saw privacy concerns as an issue in the minds of pundits. (Never heard them complain about pundits praising their “innovations.”) A few hours later, the Palo Alto-based company outdid John Kerry when it came to flip-flopping and announced what are being perceived as big changes to the Beacon system. Read More about To Save Its Bacon, Facebook Weakens Beacon

EV-DO Rev A, GPS not under the Xmas tree for Sprint’s Mogul

Htc_mogul_2If you’ve been a good little girl or boy and expected EV-DO Rev A under the tree for your Sprint Mogul this Christmas, you might want to get out a coal shovel. The good news is that you should have faster 3G before the Easter Bunny arrives, but I’d save some raw eggs for chucking, just in case. BGR has the general info right from North Pole, er Sprint:

"HTC is currently developing a separate ROM update which enables theEV-DO Rev. A and GPS capabilities that are already built into the Mogulhardware.  Sprint and HTC plan to make this software ROM available inearly 1Q 2008."

A little GPS action might help get Sprint and HTC off the naughty list everywhere, but I’m hoping Santa can kick the elves the pants and speed up the Rev. A support. GPS is nice but the bow should have been on the package earlier this year. At this rate, Verizon will launch the XV6800 with Rev. A faster, and that’s hard to believe!