feeds | grep links > Wikia 2.0, Google-Facebook Hissy Fit, and More

  • One next step in the wiki’s evolution merges in the social
    As Mike Melanson at ReadWriteWeb explains, this announcement for Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales, reveals what is coming for his commercial venture, Wikia. I am relieved that similar plans are not in the offing for Wikipedia itself. Given how Wikia has struggled to gain traction, with a rising tide of me-too services further diluting the field, embracing social features may yield a needed shot in the arm.
  • Google-Facebook hissy fit over data portability
    Mike Melanson at ReadWriteWeb has the latest turn in a largely tiresome spat between the two web giants. I think Google’s competitive zeal against Facebook is clouding their better judgment, though the messaging is pretty funny. Rather than enlisting users or sprinkling code-based caltraps, I really think Google should stick to the ideal that informs their internal Data Liberation Front. Sinking to Facebook’s level is just going to prolong the delay before data portability wins out.
  • Citizen Lab develops project to map out RIM’s concessions to government, Citizen Lab
  • European commissioner lambasts copyright middlemen, TorrentFreak

Facebook Profile Download Is Not Data Portability

I was one of the ones who quickly and without much thought applied the label of portable to one of the new features Facebook announced yesterday, specifically the ability for users to download their own profile data. Alisa Leonards, communications chairperson of the DataPortability project clarifies what portability should really entail and how Facebook misses the mark.

Data portability is the idea that users are, and should be, in control of their data, how its used, and have access to it at any time. Beyond this, data portability inherently implies data interoperability— the ability for your identity and social graph data to be used across any site or service, as controlled by the end user, and therefore requires the use of open web standards. Facebook’s “Download Your Info” is NOT data portability. It is data accessibility.

That is more than just a definitional point. First, she is speaking to a much more functional notion of portability. You should be able to move about to different messaging, identity and other social service providers seamlessly, without an interruption in your connection of friends and acquaintances. That is what she means by interoperability.

Second, as she goes on to make clear, Facebook’s TOS are unchanged. You are at most making a copy of the data they will retain on their servers. You cannot execute a hard delete after you’ve downloaded your data.

There are other, more nuanced concerns about how this all works in practice, too. EFF has an excellent post amplifying Leonard’s points. While they give Facebook some credit, EFF also holds their feet to the fire on similar gaps in true portability and the privacy implications that arise from those omissions.

Why downloading your data is not data portability, DataPortability Blog

feeds | grep links > UK Teen Jailed Over Encryption Key, OLPC’s New Tablet Not for the Developing World, Data Portability Comes to Facebook, and More

  • British teen jailed over encryption password
    Slashdot has the details and link to the full story. I cannot say that this would have end better here in the US as there is a fairly straightforward dodge to 5th Amendment protections. In and of itself, an encryption key is not incriminating. I don’t know that all judges hold with that interpretation but I am sure some prosecutors have pushed the argument or will do so.
  • More details on hacking the DC internet voting pilot, Freedom to Tinker
  • DC suspends online voting test, Slashdot
  • OLPC’s new tablet not for the developing world
    I didn’t catch this aspect of the new grant to the OLPC project to work with Marvell in producing a new tablet. The device in question, as The Register explains, won’t be produced for distribution in developing nations like the XO. Negroponte is explaining the tablet, a departure in many ways for efforts past, will be an interim step to the XO 4, the next devices meant to serve the project’s main mission of affordable educational technology.
  • Libyan, .ly, domain shut down for violating that countries standards, ReadWriteWeb
  • Data portability finally comes to Facebook
    Jacqui Cheung at Ars Technica was one of many to cover the announcements today from the dominant social network. She doesn’t speculate about the ability to export all of your data or the new dashboard, similar to Google’s privacy dashboard, that gives a more comprehensive view of your apps and what data they access. I am skeptical they’ve turned a new leaf. The other announcement, about ways to group your friends, also seems like it is reactionary to me. Rumors have been floating around for a bit now about a Google social network and the most compelling evidence would have the service strongly differentiating based on a user’s ability to segment their friends into different contexts and audiences.

feeds | grep links > Privacy Theater, Fedora 13 Released, FSF Seeking GPL Compliance from the Apple App Store, and Facebook on Data Portability

It was either a slower news day or I was distracted by day dreams of Balticon.

  • Privacy theater
    Professor Ed Felten has a link to a NYT round table feature including a variety of opinions about Facebook’s privacy practices and the possibility of regulation. In this Freedom to Tinker post, he also coins the term, “privacy theater”, which aptly describes the motions providers and users both go through without amounting to much control or privacy.
  • Fedora 13 released
    Ryan Paul at Ars Technica digs some of the highlights out of the release announcement. The biggest change for the release is the inclusion of some open 3D drivers that sound pretty capable. He also mentions the rev to Python 3 and a significantly improvedinstaller.
  • FSF seeking GPL compliance in the Apple app store
    The application in question is a port of Gnu Go and the core issue is it is impossible to satisfy the offer of source, especially under GPL v2, with the Apple developer license and conditions of use for the store. The FSF is realistic enough to understand that the most likely outcome for this complaint is not compliance but ejection of the app from the store.
  • Is Facebook coming around on data portability?
    The service has had an abysmal track record, often suing when users try to exercise some autonomous control over their own data. Steve Repetti at the Data Portability blog points out one statement in Zuckerberg’s press call that may be cause to hope. He is realistic, though, and admits the proof will be in what Facebook actually does.

Cerf on Data Portability

It is encouraging to see a leading light of the Internet, like Vint Cerf, back the need for data portability. According to ReadWriteWeb, Cerf is comparing the current state of affairs to the lack of standards in the era predating the Internet. I think this is a fair comparison, the ability for users to carry their information with them from service to service really is just about non-existent.

If his call is answered, and even within his employer there are efforts to better serve data portability, I am optimistic about the balance shifting at least a little bit back towards consumers.

More Debate on Defining Broadband, a Zombie Broadcast Flag, Google Launches a Project to Liberate Your Data and More

  • IBM mandates OOo for internal use
    According to Linux Magazine, it is actually their OpenOffice.org based product, Lotus Symphony. They are also adopting ODF as a standard, though, which is probably even more important. It is hardly surprising but may encourage other large companies fed up with Microsoft or who may be tired of the license costs.
  • WebKit project adds support for forthcomng 3D standard
    The standard, according to the article, is being developed by the same body responsible for OpenGL ES and OpenCL. I don’t think gaming is the killer application here, necessarily. OpenGL has been put to some very clever 2D animation uses, so I could see WebGL as another tool to help oust the proprietary Flash from the web.
  • Google launches group dedicated to liberating your data
    This is a really good start from Google and I hope it encourages other service providers to think about data portability. The web site to their credit already has some excellent information on how to export your data from Google applications. I still have a concern about data retention that I am not seeing addressed and for which Google as a whole has a poor track record. Exporting it is one thing, being confident Google will destroy my data afterwards is another.
  • Creative Commons releases results of its study of non-commercial term
    Read the entire post not just for a good summation of response from the survey but also for the implications going forward, in particular for the upcoming long haul deliberations for version 4.0 of the licenses. The underlying survey data as well as the findings are being made openly available. In short, there seems to be a pretty good coherent interpretation of the meaning of non-commercial. Where there is some skew, it falls on the forgivable side such as users interpreting the condition more conservatively than creators. There is some good food for thought, too, in the conclusion in the form of some best practices and guiding principles for using the non-commercial license condition to best effect.
  • Broadcast flag pops up and bites some consumers
    Matthew Lasar at Ars explains what seems like a bit of an anomalous case. A DVD-R based device ran afoul of a flag incorporated into a basic cable program’s broadcast via DirecTV. Lasar also gives a good backgrounder on the broadcast flag’s sordid history, reminding us that even though the courts ultimately killed Big Content’s bid for control of digital broadcasts, device makers (the most foolish ones anyway) can still voluntarily respect any such flags embedded in programming.
  • What is the state of city-wide WiFi?
    A bevy of links consider the question from a few angles netting conflicting answers. I am skeptical of the view that the deployment of WiMax has stalled municipal WiFi since, at least here in the US, WiMax isn’t faring much better in terms of availability. I also doubt that WiFi enabled phones will help drive further coverage since owners always have the option of just using their cellular data plan. Maybe if cell carriers continue to relegate high bandwidth, low latency applications to WiFi, that may inadvertently encourage more competitive wireless options but I am not holding my breath.
  • Japanese RIAA wants server based DRM on mobile phones
    Jacqui Cheung has the story at Ars. I suspect this may be very specific to the market there which has a much stronger focus on phones versus other options for taking your media with you. When I read that it was so heavily centralized beyond the natural questions about how it will work in a cell dead spot, I started worrying about the unanticipated risks and problems that arise from this sort of tethering of consumers media to a remote system that no doubt is inadequately secured.
  • Are Microsoft’s, Oracle’s open source efforts held up to a double standard?
    Matt Asay asks a fair questions, more so I think when it comes to Oracle. As for Microsoft, I strongly disagree with his view that they are getting an unfair cop from open source advocates. To this day, Microsoft continues to sow fear, uncertainty and doubt that reduces if not eliminates any benefit of the doubt they may deserve. This is not about the percentage of their code that is open or their upstream contributions compared to contributions by other commercial outfits. Rather it is about adversarial double dealing that no amount of openness can easily absolve.
  • AT&T excludes gaming from broadband in FCC’s attempts to define the term
    Matthew Lasar has the particulars at Ars. The gaming industry not surprisingly has their back up at AT&T’s remarks. Lasar includes some good research material to try to better understand whether gaming should be considered an essential part of broadband access. I am concerned that this sort of rhetoric is going to de-rail the broadband plan through squabbling over specific uses rather than considering it on simpler terms as a tool for access to knowledge of all kinds.
  • Jesse Brown suggest publicly funded media should be int the public domain
    He uses the example of a series he produced for the CBC which he cannot link or mirror. My answer is pretty unsurprising, “Yes!”, but I do think this is a question that needs to be put seriously to the Canadian, US and other governments that have publicly funded and supported media. I would go so far as to suggest this should be part of open governance, alongside access to voting records, campaign finance data, and the text of our legislation.