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Models of data imprisonment

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I have been thinking about my data and online data logistics a lot these days in connection with VRM infrastructure as I have been working on (Mine!). As an individual my relationship to my data can be described in matrix of several types of imprisonment. I am interested in building an option where this is not the case.

jail_behind_bars.jpgJail with visiting rights – closed platform a la Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Flickr, Amazon, Expedia, online bank statements and any site that doesn’t allow export of data in interoperable format. My data is under lock and key elsewhere, and I cannot get more than a view of it through the bars of the jail. For instance I would manually enter my profile or other data into a Facebook applications (and now a few ‘trusted parties’), but there is little or no hope that I could get the data back out again, other to save the JPEGs of the resulting output (screen grabs) – which decimate rather than reflect the value of the original input. Further, my data starts losing weight, as any inmate locked up. As the original data is never at my beckoning, only its representation is what I can play with.

housearrest.jpgHouse arrest – desktop applications for data management, iTunes, Excel spreadsheet, word processing, etc. Example, my music (ripped not bought from iTunes store) is my data is on my computer in a format that is hard to share with anyone. The software is not designed to enable sharing of data – the net result is my data is nominally under my control, but it is just as locked up as Facebook. (No export or no guarantee that exported data is in a mashable format)

open_prison.jpgOpen prison – online data management tools, Wesabe, uploading from iPhoto or Picasa to This means I can share (better than house arrest) but the data is centralised a little like Facebook (almost as bad as jail with visiting rights) and although the rendering tools are more advanced and, being centralised, can be upgraded without user intervention, there is still a big similarity to glimpsing my data which is held within the jail.

out_on_bail.jpgOut on bail – feed readers and online calendars, e.g. OPML, Google Calendar, iCal. The data is more or less yours and mostly under your control for export, import and sharing. But it can’t travel far and there is only so much you can do with it. It certainly can’t be mashed up with data in other formats or on other topics than calendar or feeds. (Dopplr lets you go furthest in combining calendar, Flickr and map data etc).

out_of_jail2.jpgOut of jail – I hold my data on (explicitly) my resource for sharing; I can share my data beyond just what Flickr, etc provide as a tool to render my data, and in more places than just those platforms – for instance with a supermarket or gym or others (vendor?) who could benefit from knowing what I am eating and when I am exercising. In short: the Mine! enables controlled sharing beyond the Mine!’s own rendering itself. The bars are removed and your data can go where you desire it to.

dance_prison_parade.jpgHm, to push the analogy further, doesn’t that make Plaxo Pulse, Friendfeed and other such aggregators a prison parade? :)

In case I haven’t made it clear enough, I want my data out of jail. By that I mean being able to exist online with four requirements met: take charge of my data (content, relationships, transactions, knowledge), arrange (analyse, manipulate, combine, mash-up) it according to my needs and preferences and share it on my own terms whilst connected and networked on the web. That is what the Mine! is designed for.

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7 Responses to “Models of data imprisonment”

  1. Tuscan Tony
    on May 14th, 2008
    @ 14:58 pm

    Fascinating analysis, Adriana. My biggest single investment is in Autonomy Corporation, who as you may already know provide the “data functionality” side to this equation. Their stock has been a bit of a roller-coaster (not many people fully understand what they do, always a tough invetment sell!), but they seem to be on a roll now.

  2. Geoff
    on May 14th, 2008
    @ 18:46 pm

    Excellent write up in the spirit of Doc Searls silo’s. I wonder who will start providing such tools.

  3. Adriana
    on May 14th, 2008
    @ 18:48 pm

    Geoff, see the previous posting on this blog. The Mine! is such a tool or rather, an infrastructure to a host of tools that would do that…

  4. Confluence: The DataPortability Project
    on Aug 26th, 2008
    @ 18:45 pm

    Data Ownership Concepts…

    The following are replies I received to the following note sent to the Project VRM discussion list: Team VRM Over in DataPortability land, we’re struggling with terminology around the “ownership” of user data.  Basically,……

  5. The Mine! project » Truly social software?
    on Sep 15th, 2008
    @ 20:10 pm

    [...] For some type of data a flow is just fine – e.g. Flickr, FriendFeed, PlaxoPulse, Facebook etc. Structure sometimes emerges – sets, rooms, groups. For other purposes I may need alternate data structures and new functionality to build them. A pool of tagged objects is a good start, it is flexible and not determining how the data is organised. The user who generates the data also owns the actual raw data, as opposed to its formatted representation – e.g. Facebook, Amazon reviews. There will therefore, be many more options how to manipulate them. (For more see Models of Data Imprisonment.) [...]

  6. T-mobile sells off customer data « market RIOT
    on Nov 18th, 2009
    @ 0:16 am

    [...] This is the other side of the bad coin of personal data – which is itself imprisoned in various silos and platforms. There are quite a few online that have more than ‘custodial’ overtones – Models of Data Imprisonment. [...]

  7. Van wie is mijn informatie nu eigenlijk? | Towards a delicious future
    on Sep 25th, 2011
    @ 20:22 pm

    [...] opgeslagen maar IK kan het er niet meer bij laat staan het er uithalen. Mijn “data” zit gevangen en niet ik, maar een ander heeft de [...]

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