Sunday, September 21, 2008

Data property rights: a banking analogy

Further on from previous comments on data portability, I read an interesting post on GigaOM from a while back from Nitin Borwankar: Data Property Rights, Not Portability. Nitin makes some really clear points regarding the rules which *should* govern your data which is placed in a third party's system (ie YouTube, Facebook), if you took a classic "property" analogy:

1. Data Accessibility
2. Data Visibility
3. Data Removal
4. Data Ownership

( the full post for details).

This makes me think of traditional business models surrounding being a trustee for other people's property: the classic model is banking. With a bank, I place my money in their trust, and am free to withdraw the money according to the agreement I have with them (ie savings / chequeing / fixed term investment account types). Conversely, while they have my money they are free to invest that money for their own profit (again, within certain limits - for example maybe I would specify that arms and tobacco investments are off-limits).

In the same way, for a piece of data or content that I own, I can choose which "trustee" I place my data with and can "withdraw" (ie to another service provider) my data according to the terms of my service agreement. Meanwhile, that trustee is free to try and make profits from my content by driving advertising, social mapping or other revenue from it.

Sounds fair enough to me.

Couple of afterthoughts, however:
- Banking is regulated: the internet will potentially need a regulator to achieve the "liquidity" of content outlined above.
- If these content ownership rules become embedded in internet culture over the next few years, and Facebook, YouTube and all the rest are just trusted, temporary custodians of their customer's content: what implications does that have for internet company valuations?

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