Quoting Mitchell Baker, thinking about data:
Our online lives are generating increasing data about us as individuals and about how groups of people are using the Internet. At the dawn of the World Wide Web 15 years ago people “surfed” to websites and viewed information. Today Internet life is more participatory and people create more information. In addition, a range of tools have been developed for tracking and generating data about people and our activities. The existence and treatment of this data is important to our online security and privacy. The treatment of this data also affects the public ability to understand how people use the Internet.
So there is a lot of value in knowing people's behaviour on the Internet. So far, a lot, if not all, of this value is captured by commercial organizations. In many cases, people don't get much of the data they generate, other than getting "targeted ads"
In a series of posts, Mitchell lays the ground for a discussion about this data, and what I see coming is groundbreaking:
- Thinking About Data ;
- Framework for discussing “data” ;
- Why focus on data? ;
- Data Relating to People. Mitchell lists several kinds of data, which she calls altogether "Associated Data":
- "Personal and potential personal data" (Credit card number, Social Security number, etc.)
- “Intentional Content.” Data intentionally created by people to be seen by people.
- “Harvested Data.” Information gathered or created about an individual through the logging, tracking, aggregating and correlating of his or her online activities.
- "Relationship Data". Our relationships with other people, such as our “friends” or followers at various sites.
I call this "groundbreaking" because it's unchartered territory. The ownership and control of "Associated Data" is very important for all of us Internet users, and some of the principles of the Mozilla Manifesto are at risk if we sit back and let someone else take control over our data.
What can and should Mozilla do to help people be safe and in control of their online experience in the midst of this rising sea of data?
So the questions we should ask ourselves today are:
- Who's standing on the side of users on the Internet when it comes to "associated data"? (My answer is "nobody with the same levers as Mozilla, so we have to do something about it")
- How can Mozilla unleash the value of this "associated data" and give it to the users?
If you have ideas, if you feel (like me) that this topic has to be discussed, please leave your comments below or on Mitchell's blog. We can't leave this data issue unaddressed, unless we're ready to see it come back later to bite us...
Mitchell has just posted another article: Data — getting to the point. Short excerpts:
I would like to see Mozilla provide more leadership in helping people manage the collection and treatment of data related to them — what I’ve called “Associated Data.“
I would also like to see Mozilla provide leadership in treating some basic aggregate, anonymized usage data as a public asset.
Like Mitchell says, it's a sensitive topic, and I think that Mozilla has potentially a unique perspective on this important issue. We should not be shy... Let's not avoid having this important discussion. Jump to Mitchell's blog, read her whole article and tell us what you think...
 Which is not so well targeted most of the times, IMHO.