A brouhaha involving the temporary shutdown of the Facebook account of popular tech blogger Robert Scoble sparked discussion recently of a new issue for 2008: data portability.

Scoble tried to export the names, email addresses and birthdays of his close to
5,000 “friends” on Facebook into a beta version of Plaxo (the address book updating service).

His Facebook account was shutdown but then quickly reinstated when, presumably, the Facebook folks realized how powerful he is in the blogosphere. (Scoble’s blog is currently ranked #36 on Technorati – so Top 50 – out of over 100 million blogs.)

There is no privacy

Translated… there is no privacy. If you’re using any kind of online service, your “data” — your name, your username, your email address — can, potentially, be passed around (scraped is the geek term) between these networks.

So if you’re using gmail or yahoo mail or Flickr or Delicious or YouTube or belong to Facebook or LinkedIn or another of the popular social networks, you’ve given up complete control of your personal information. You don’t, so to speak, “own” it anymore. Surprised?

But there is trust

Don’t be. Just don’t forget that your personal data may also include your photos and videos and your carefully assembled networks of contacts and their information. And if an online service decides you’re persona non grata, your stuff / data / digital trail is gone. Erased (as Scoble put it).

I guess we all know this on some level. It’s part of the bigger and more thorny issue of privacy. With so many of us living so much of our lives online we are trusting both that our “data” won’t be misused and that it won’t disappear.

Silly us. But what can we do? The utility of these online services outweighs their risks — at least for most of us.

The issue of privacy is one I will be exploring in 2008. I’m fascinated by it. I’ve had my own hiccup with being more visible online than I’d like to be (and being judged and criticized by folks who don’t know me). Not fun.

I wonder sometimes… if I decided to crawl into a closet and “disappear,” would it be possible? While I love my life online — and the wonderful interactions and discussions with smart and interesting people around the world — I sometimes long for the old days of no computers, no social networks, no email, etc.

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