Ben Thompson on data portability and Facebook

The problem with data portability is that it goes both ways: if you can take your data out of Facebook to other applications, you can do the same thing in the other direction. The question, then, is which entity is likely to have the greater center of gravity with regards to data: Facebook, with its social network, or practically anything else?

Remember the conditions that led to Facebook’s rise in the first place: the company was able to circumvent Google, go directly to users, and build a walled garden of data that the search company couldn’t touch. Partnering or interoperating with companies below the Bill Gates Line, particularly aggregators, is simply an invitation to be intermediated. To demand that governments enforce exactly that would be a massive mistake that only helps Facebook.

Link to the post, with further explanation, is here.  You can and should subscribe to Ben here.  Here is my earlier post on data portability.

Comments

Related to that link, that first video, and Yelp and Google.

Let me first say that I like Yelp, have the app on my devices, and go to it first for many searches. I am aware, when I use the Google or Google Map interface for the same search I am cross-searching. I am comparing results.

I realize I'm an old computer dude, and Yelp is worried about people who don't know what is happening under the hood, but when they want to be "in" Google's search I think "no no no!"

I don't want one search engine, with fairness obscurely defined. I want search options.

On our free service providers and data portability:

1) Easy forms are easy. Give me all my pictures. Give me all my emails. Even give me all my text messages.

2) Hard forms are hard. Give me all my "likes?" My "tags?" "Who I liked, and then didn't like, but might like again?"

1 is easy and should be provided. Maybe there should even be a law.

2 is hard and leads to madness. It may be disregarded.

Number 1 is so easy you can do it today with Facebook, using this link - https://www.facebook.com/help/1701730696756992?helpref=hc_global_nav

Number 2 not only leads to madness, it is also irrelevant, broadly speaking. No one is seriously suggesting that likes on Facebook need to be portable. (Though to be honest, these days, it would not be a shock if someone was able to match people like Prof. Cowen or Prof. Tabarrok when discussing such things.)

I don't use Facebook, but I know Google has a pretty good "give me" page as well. And it looks like you can download all your Tweets.

Does everyone?

By the way, I think Tyler kind of implies that Option 2 is the *only* think we are talking about.

Both Prof. Cowen and Prof. Tabarrok seem to have this complete 'musunderstanding' every single time they write about such subjects.

To the point one can wonder how they remain so utterly ignorant about this broad subject.

'The problem with data portability is that it goes both ways'

No, it goes whatever way the owner of the data - which is not Facebook et al - wants. For example, porting the data completely out of Facebook (that is, Facebook must delete the data) without providing it to another service.

After deleting my old facebook id, I resigned up fresh. I noticed the new ID coincided with facebook's new chat based money transmission service.

That is the conflict. I cannot be monetarily liquid on a money network where all my text and planning is visible to Zuck, he will pickup my nickels, that way Timmy does. So, if I want chat groups and liquidity, then I am part of a liquid trading group,and we will want the encrypted message features of Telegram.

By the way, I repeat, we have a major regulatory conflict, know your customer and the right to be anonymous. The conflict is only solvable in the Fintech environment where we can have anonymous regulation enforcement.

Facebook et al. are generating enormous profits from selling digital advertising and aren't going to give it up. Not willingly. So we have defenders of their use of users' data ("it's not your data") and every possible rationalization. The stakes are huge. I would just remind readers that the founders of Google initially said they would take the high road and not adopt the Facebook model (a "free" service in return for free data). Right. Now the hucksters want to extend the Facebook model to all manner of businesses, even appliances. It's not your data. And that from a libertarian.

I'm no tech expert, but it appears to me that this (and the prior discussions) are missing some important considerations.

If I'm not mistaken, the move to require data portability has started with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It is important to understand that Europeans resent the dominance US firms have in social media (and other high-tech spaces). If Facebook, Google, etc. have a huge market advantage if users are not free to export their existing data to new competitors. I'm not a Facebook or Twitter user, but I'd be less likely to sign up to a new e-mail service if the existing data was not transportable to a new provider. What appears to be lacking in the discussion excerpted above is that because Facebook has such a big market share, they have much more to lose from a status quo market share standpoint.

Let's not be naïve---much like imposing huge fines on US firms is (and perhaps vice versa), some of the provisions of the GDPR seem designed more to help EU firms enter the market or gain market share than to protect consumers.

You are forgetting the consumer. I want an option to not be tracked or analyzed and I don't have a problem paying cash money for this. Opt-in data collection should be the standard, not opt-out (see Tumblr for ridiculous it can get). I should also be able to delete any data they collect on me.

Did you even read the original comment? I did not "forget" the consumer. My comment wasn't really about whether data transferability is good for the consumer; however, I did write this: "I'm not a Facebook or Twitter user, but I'd be less likely to sign up to a new e-mail service if the existing data was not transportable to a new provider."

Can consumers be paid for their data? I know I know, we get to use the "service" for "free."

I mean opt in for having my data sold. Then getting a deposit into my pay pal account every month.

Why not?

Such is life in America: https://xkcd.com/743/

Such is life in Brazil:

"Brazil faces calls for return to military dictatorship amid truckers' strike"

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/30/brazil-truckers-strike-protest-military-dictatorship

People are exagerating. Brazil faced a 10-day total truckers' strike without budging, America would be suing for peace in a few days without fuel and diminished supplies of food and medicine. President Temer waited the strikers out and negotiated from a position of force. There was no violence, no Little Rocks, not Fergusons, no Trial of Tears. I am proud of how we all behaved in difficult circumstances. It was our Blitz.

The Minister of Institutional Security, General Etchefoyen has officially declared he is not plotting a coup and that a return to military rule is unthinkable.

So Brazil had a 10 day trucker strike, with a return to the status quo and that was your Blitz?

Well, now we can all evaluate Brazil and decide whether the country should be considered a world power. Because a 10 day trucker strike is just like a year long bomber offensive against the heart of your nation.

"The Minister of Institutional Security, General Etchefoyen has officially declared he is not plotting a coup and that a return to military rule is unthinkable."

It's a totally reassuring sign when the Generals have to publicly declare that they aren't "officially" plotting a coup and return to military rule.

@Tyler, the next time you visit Taiwan, which is highly recommended, you should interview Ben Thompson. Fits your model for a synthesis thinker.

The question, then, is which entity is likely to have the greater center of gravity with regards to data: Facebook, with its social network, or practically anything else?

Considering how much Facebook has freaked out about apps with this kind of functionality, I don't think they agree with Thompson.

The danger to Facebook is not a Facebook clone. Google demonstrated that by building Google Plus and failing to get any traction.

The danger to Facebook is a niche social media site that causes people to divide their social media time between Facebook and Social Medium X.

Since Facebook has ~100% of the market now, anything that causes people to divide their attention reduces Facebook's ad inventory.

So, for example, an app that let you post your Facebook photos on Instagram would cut into Facebook's ad inventory by making Instagram more useful, even if Instagram is not a direct competitor to Facebook.

Facebook knows this, because they bought out Instagram super early (which was its own anticompetitive bag of worms).

White men are the most discriminated group. Feminists hate them. BLM hate them. Jews and Muslims hate them. People need to understand their struggles more before they cast judgement on them. Its only fair.

I miss app.net every day.

People misunderstood app.net. They thought of it as a paid twitter clone when it was actually a service that allowed you to interact with your data any way you wanted to. Yes, you could do microblogging like Twitter but as apps were made on top of the service you could do so much more. By the time they announced they were no longer developing it you could do microblogging, regular blogging, podcasting, image hosting, group chats, shareable document markup, and even use the service for IOT alerts and triggers. Your data was portable betweeen apps and the people looking at your stuff may not even realize that it was on app.net. You could download your data at any point or even use it as a cloud storage service like Dropbox.

The difference of course is that app.net was a paid service, not supported by ads. They did not do anything with your data and so were free to allow the customer to do whatever it is they wanted. The talk about making your data from Facebook portable doesn’t really make much sense because you’d have too make a clone of Facebook in order for the info to be much use. The service needs to be built from the beginning with data portability in mind. I don’t think that’s possible unless the service is a paid one.

Manton Reese has started micro.blog in an effort to get away from ad supported social networks. Like app.net it allows other apps to use the service. It will never have the flexibility of app.net but it is a good choice if you want some control over the stuff you share.

What data you have on Facebook that you would really, really need to take somewhere else?

With the repeal of net neutrality social media companies like Facebook will keep selling off your data to advertisers, this profit making practice won't change.

Comments for this post are closed