WHAT IT IS: Everyone knows sites such as Google and Facebook have massive amounts of personal data, and some are beginning to question just who owns that data and how portable it should be. A group of internet companies has banded together as the Data Portability Work Group to sort out the issues and technologies, such as OpenID and APML (left), that could make data more interoperable among the many social-media sites.
WHO'S INVOLVED: They hail from who's who of internet companies -- Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, SixApart and Yahoo. DataPortability.org got an injection of blog buzz recently when über-blogger Robert Scoble was suspended from Facebook after using an automated service from Plaxo to mine his social-graph data. He blogged the glories of DataPortability; just days later, a Facebook rep joined the group. Of course, there's a long way to go -- and a lot of companies that would need to come to consensus -- to make this a reality.
THE CONSUMER EFFECT: Ideally, this will simplify the management of social-media activities. Writes Forrester's Charlene Li: "The new reality is that business social networking has finally caught on, and the proliferation of niche 'social networks' means that these five social networks will likely grow to 10, 20, who knows how many? And the worst part about it is I don't have the time, energy or patience to manage all of these relationships, yet I know it's crucial."
WHAT THE PRIVACY EXPERTS SAY: Red-flag alert! They question whether this is really about users and suggest it might be more about giving commercially interested parties a better way to harvest data. "Users need to be able to control data and make decisions about whether or not to make it available to other sites," said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. "But in this case what's needed is complete user control."