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We live in an open source world

December 21, 2010

The other day on Twitter Marc wrote:

I think this is irresponsible-“Google says app makers “bear the responsibility for how they handle user information.”

I responded that the world is moving open source, and people need to be more responsible for their own choices. In an open source world, the responsibility for user information rests solely on the user.

Consider the definition of open source. Open means not closed, not hidden, not blocked. If data is part of the picture, then data is open. Location is open (GPS). Profiles are open (just google yourself). Behavior is open.

This is all new.

Prior to the web 2.0 revolution, our data was basically closed because the systems weren’t connected. Our purchases were collected, but they weren’t synced with location data and demographic from a smart phone.

Our data wasn’t sorted and made available to any Google search. We assumed that if we engaged with a brand or a game, or a program (the old term for app) that our data was protected because all these systems were self-contained, closed systems. Location wasn’t linked through GPS to actions, or check-ins, or status updates or GPS stamped Twitpics.

Clearly, that ship has sailed.

In open data systems, the responsibility for the data rests not on the platform, but on the people. It’s not on Google to protect us from our data, because protection implies rules — which is the opposite of open. Consumers need to make informed choices about the things they engage with, understanding that sometimes the risk is data.

As Marc pointed out, there isn’t anything in place on the Android system to protect the users data from the people who make apps. Downloading an app means sharing data with a company, including location, friends, contacts, status…

Contrast that with the protected, safer, less open Apple system. Apple has never really had an ‘open system’, and thus never really had to worry about malware and viruses on their computer network. On their mobile network, they screen every app to ensure it fits their criteria. In the Apple world, the choices are different for consumers.

This is about more than mobile.

Consider Facebook connect on websites. The act of logging in with Facebook on a website (called Facebook connect) is the act of opting in to share data with a company. You’ve seen the warning screen when adding apps to Facebook, the same data exchange can happen with websites — but without warning.

Consumers opt in to give away data on websites for additional functionality. That’s the trade-off, but I would guess most consumers don’t know they are making the trade.

An Open Source World.

We are moving into a world where behaviors can be synced with people because things are open. Governments are learning that data is open. HR people are learning that data is open.

Again, this isn’t a nefarious plot about leaking your data on a website. This is simply a reminder that we live in a more open data environment.

Managing our data isn’t something people older than 35 have ever had to do.  This is a new behavior for us, and it can be a little frightening. (In a similar way, we’re not use to filtering content).

Since people like to share, there will be more data in the world. More reviews, likes, check-ins, app downloads, blog posts, status updates, friend requests….etc.

All this data can now be plugged into tools used to sort,  analyze, and then insights can be generated. That’s the trade-off with engaging. If everyone is sharing, we’ll live in an open source world.

Consumers need to understand the trade-off.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 27, 2010 1:06 pm

    I love that you had to give us all the reminder of what it means to be “open”. Sometimes we like to take the idea of openness, but never fully expose everything.

    • December 27, 2010 8:58 pm

      I think most people aren’t even aware they live in an open source world. It’s so new.


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