OpenData Standards

Wed Mar 24, 2010 9:34:10 am by Dustin
Filed under Dealing with People, Finance, General, Software, Tools and Tricks

How much about you does the outside world know about you? I am particularly interested in the web world – as usual. Think about it for a couple minutes.

The last purchase you made on Amazon was saved and reused to better predict what you might (or will) purchase next. Facebook knows who you are, your age, what you enjoy, who your friends are, what they like to do, who you hang out with most often. Each of the Facebook Apps you have installed can see these characteristics too. Your emails, phone calls, location – this list goes on – can be logged by many organizations.

Heck even this site has some of these controls. Its analytics system will collect when you came to the site and how you got here. It does not know that you are Bob, but it does know any generic information a marketer might want to know. Added a comment becomes worse. Assuming you do not lie, your name, email, web address, and location are forever stored.

My point is not that this is good or bad. Rather, it exists. I would like to stay neutral on the accumulation of such data.

Instead, I would like to promote a new web standard called OpenData. For those of you who are not knee deep in how the web is created, there are many ‘open’ standards. OpenID and OpenSocial to name some, but the list could continue.

A quick search on the Internets will not produce the ‘open data’ I am referencing. Open Data is more commonly referred to as making some information open to the public – patents, legislation, etc – without restriction.

My goal is different. I would like a standard to help me as a consumer of these data collecting services to control the information they know about me. Once the OpenData standards and structure are in place, I could use a third-party app to control (add, modify, delete) the amount or types of data these services know about me.

At a technical level, this would be a non-trivial process. Even getting around a companies data backup policy could be a huge bottleneck since in many cases this data is not easily accessible. Auditing (internal or external) procedures would also limit the ability for a company to remove, say, purchasing records.

Either way, the world would probably benefit from this type of standard.

Thoughts?