It is sufficient to reassign to each customer the ownership of all the digital connections that she creates — what is known as a “social graph.” If we owned our own social graph, we could sign into a Facebook competitor — call it MyBook — and, through that network, instantly reroute all our Facebook friends’ messages to MyBook, as we reroute a phone call.
If I can reach my Facebook friends through a different social network and vice versa, I am more likely to try new social networks. Knowing they can attract existing Facebook customers, new social networks will emerge, restoring the benefit of competition.
Today Facebook provides developers with application-program interfaces that give them access to its customers’ social graph, Facebook Connect and Graph A.P.I. Facebook controls these gates, retaining the right to cut off any developer who poses a competitive threat. Anticipating this outcome, very few developers invest seriously in creating alternatives, eliminating even the threat of competition.
By guaranteeing access to new customers’ data and contacts, a Social Graph Portability Act would reduce the network externality dimension of the existing digital platforms and ensure the benefits of competition.
Here is the full NYT piece. Is it feasible that the data could be transferred in a ready-to-use form? And can the contacts object that they did not themselves consent to a transfer of their associated information say to “Alt-RightBook”?