Is your data really yours

This subject was brought up in another context at Gnomedex this year. Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about how everyone wants to control your data. Sometimes this is done under the guise of security. The new Vista operating system is an example of this type of behavior. While in other cases more unethical practices may be taking place. An example of this would be when your using Kinko’s computers to do work. You have to agree to a disclaimer that basically gives that company the right to use your data in anyway they like. If your just wanting use of their computer to move pictures from an SD card to an external hard drive. You have to basically give Kinko’s the right to use those same pictures in anyway they want. Even though you are paying them a per minute fee to use their machines to do what it is your needing to accomplish. Lets not even get into how much of a pain it is to use Kinko’s business center to do anything more than browse the internet or check email. Should customers have to agree to these type of terms before using computer time they are paying for? Is it ok to have this type of requirement in a TOS ( terms of service ) clause? We have all seen in the past where terms are included in the legalese that aren’t regulated in any way. But should your data become theirs because you need or want to use their computer service?

The past few days I’ve been dealing with a problem in regards to accessing some picture data. I used an XP machine at a Super 8 in Worthington, MN to move pictures to my external hard drive. Everything seemed to go smooth and I checked the pictures that were transferred to that drive. This XP machine was locked down a little to tight security wise. I found this out after rebooting it to try and solve a networking issue. At the time though I had no reason to think that any data I transferred to my external unit would not be accessible. I get home a day later and the next day I try to move these pictures off the external hard drive to my pc. For some reason Vista keeps screaming it’s overly paranoid security setting about not having the proper permissions. Yes I’ve checked all of these. Yes I have Vista tweaked to where this should not be an issue. I’ve also rebooted the machine and reconnected the external drive. To make sure it’s not some wanky hardware issue. The point being I have data that is mine that should be accessible. Yet it clearly can’t be accessed by me the owner. I’m unable to view these files off the external unit either. So my thought is this is something Vista related or something didn’t properly transfer when using the previous XP machine. Although everything looked fine at the time.

What I’m trying to show here. Is that Vista will in fact block you from easily accessing your data. We have yet another company trying to control how you use your stuff. Personally I don’t see any overall security benefit in this. It will in fact aggravate most end users and make them even less willing to leave this “feature” active. This is exactly what will occur in regards to many of the security features included in Vista. It seems Microsoft and many others are trying to tell us how we should control our data. In many cases we are left with only the option to do things their way or no way at all. Unless your willing to go to the hassle of tweaking settings. To me it seems everyone is trying to control our data and how we use it.

During Gnomedex it was brought up that since very few industry standards exist. It has become increasingly hard to move your data or information from one service to another. An example of this would be if you were wanting to move the contents of your blog to another blog provider. In a good number of cases you wouldn’t have access to all of your files. Many of these files wouldn’t properly transfer to the new service etc. I’m not sure if this is an intentional marketing effort by providers. To make it so frustrating to move your data that you’ll put up with inferior service or a product your not happy with. Many would try and argue that having everything open source would resolve these types of conflicts. Others would say that having all products open source reduces the ability to monetize the products and services they sell. I personally don’t feel that having everything open source is the key solution. It is apparent that many providers need to come to an agreement in regards to setting standards. All of us know that this is easier said than done. Although we supposedly have industry standards in regards to router technology. These guidelines aren’t always implemented or they are slightly different from manufacturer to manufacturer. So many customers in the end have a less than stellar experience with ease of use and operation.

It is starting to seem as if providers are holding your data hostage. Some of these companies might argue that the TOS ( terms of service ) limits your rights to the data you have built up while using a service. Many would state that they don’t provide methods for transferring your content to another provider. From what I’ve read those that do provide these methods aren’t giving your all your data or the tools you need to obtain that information. At this time your being asked to make a choice. Lose portions of your data if you want to leave a service or continue to use this service your no longer happy with. Again many in the open source community would argue this is the price you pay when your dealing with closed or proprietary networks and services. End users have seen similar aggravation when wanting to communicate with users of other instant messaging programs. Most of those programs don’t interact with each other. You have a closed / walled community.

For the foreseeable future I don’t see this trend going away. I think more and more companies are going to try and hold your data hostage to keep you as a customer. We might even see a lawsuit frenzy take place if things keep progressing in this manner. In the past it has been stated that technology vendors would like everything to be on their servers. Instead of using your current pc. These providers would like you to log into their service to obtain the software you use. Microsoft has wanted to implement this pay to play structure for many years. Instead of selling an operating system. They would have a monthly fee for the right to access the software you need online. This would of course give them even more access to the information you access and the data you store. Google seems to be trying to get users to work in this way. The privacy issues alone should create worry. Any one provider having access to large amounts of personal data can’t be entirely healthy for personal privacy. Yet at this time only a very limited few seem to be concerned about what the future might hold. At this time it seems more and more corporations would like to make it harder for you to use your data in the way you want. Ease of use and functionality seem to be on the back burner as well. My opinion if it’s mine it should remain mine. I should have total control over how my data is used. I’m sure some would state that compatibility issues will always exist. But end users don’t care about this. They care about having a seamless experience and being able to do what they want when they want. They don’t want to have to troubleshoot code to get the right font on their blog. They don’t want to do this to get things working smoothly after moving their data to a new service. This is exactly what they have to currently do in many cases. You’ll hear many say technology has become more user friendly. It’s my opinion that in a good number of ways things have become even less functional. There truly isn’t an ease of use experience.

Protect your data and secure your personal computer

AT&T rewrites rules Your data isn’t yours San Francisco Chronicle

Who Owns the Data ClickZ Network

Who owns subscription data Jon Udell’s Weblog

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