Open Data: I want my data back!

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Although I am mainly concerned with campaigning for data associated with schoilarly publishing to be Open, the term Open Data has also been used in conjunction with personal data “given” or “lent” to third parties (see Open Data – Wikipedia) which contains Jon Bosak’s quote “I want my data back”). Here is a good example of the problems of getting one’s personal data (and possibly other people’s) back from Paul Miller of Talis: Scoble, Facebook, Plaxo, open data; time for change?. Excerpts (read the whole post for the details)


I am of course talking, like so many others, about Robert Scoble being barred from Facebook for using an as-yet unlaunched capability of Plaxo that clearly and unambiguously breached Facebook’s Terms and Conditions.
It all began with a ‘tweet’ from Robert Scoble, about the time that post-holiday blues kicked in for those returning to work this (UK) morning;

“Oh, oh, Facebook blocked my account because I was hitting it with a script. Naughty, naughty Scoble!”

Twitter exploded, closely followed by large chunks of the blogosphere. …
Minutiae aside, the whole affair raises a couple of points pertinent to one of the biggest issues for 2008; ownership, portability and openness of data.

  • I want to be able to take my data from a service such as Facebook, and use it somewhere else. That’s what Marc Canter has been arguing forever, along with the AttentionTrust, OpenSocial (to a degree), and many more. That’s part of the rationale behind all the work we’ve been doing on the Open Data Commons, too. However, whether I want to or not, doing it the way Scoble did is a breach of the terms and conditions of Facebook; terms and conditions to which I – and he – signed up when we chose to use the site. If you don’t like the terms, don’t use the service. It’s as simple as that;
  • Even were I allowed to export ‘my’ data, there’s a fuzzy line between that which is mine and that which isn’t. The fact that I am a Facebook friend with Nova Spivack certainly should be mine to take wherever I choose. The contact details Nova chooses to surface to me as part of that relationship, however? Are they mine to take with me, or his to control where I can surface them? There’s clearly work to do there, although it’s interesting that ‘even’ people such as Tara Hunt are reacting (also on Twitter, of course) with;

“I’m appalled that someone can take my info 2 other networks w/o my permission. Rights belong 2 friends, too.”

PMR: I have no additional comments on this other than to say it’s going to take hard work, forethought to anticipate problems of this sort and probably a lot of legal work. Kudos to Paul and Talis and their collaborators for helping in these general areas.


In science it’s easy. Our data are ours. They don’t belong to Wiley, ACS, Elsevier, Springer. I’ve just finished a paper on this which you should all see shortly.


We want our data back.


And in future we want to make sure we don’t give away our rights to them. Is that a simple message for 2008?



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4 Responses to Open Data: I want my data back!

  1. Paul Miller says:

    “We want our data back.
    And in future we want to make sure we don’t give away our rights to them. Is that a simple message for 2008?”
    Simple, laudable, and right! 😉

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  3. Now, I really understand the importance of open data and the sorry state that we are in (due to the fiasco on my blog: Once you sign an agreement with CCDC, you either have to keep paying forever or you are not allowed to use any information derived from the data (e.g. a picture of a molecule on a blog) — even though it was determined and published by someone else. Not to mention that the data itself is a scientific fact so it should fall under IP protection.

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