Who Owns Your Information?

Who Owns Your Information?

Facebook LogoLinkedIn LogoMySpace Logo A recent turn of events involving a blogger and Facebook, have brought about a very important question regarding the ownership of information that is available on social networking sites. As reported by MediaPost, Wednesday night blogger Robert Scoble was kicked off of his own Facebook account for using a new feature of Plaxo to gather the names, e-mail addresses, and birthdays of his 5,000 Facebook friends. The ever popular social network claims that running this type of script to collect a large amount of data goes against the site's Terms of Use. A recently created Facebook group that is campaigning to get Scoble's account reinstated has more information on the matter. While I understand that preventing scripts like this from running on Facebook is a necessary way to keep out spammers, I am left wondering why Facebook feels they have the right to stop you from collecting your friends' information. If an individual creates a Facebook, MySpace or LinkedIn profile complete with their name, e-mail, sometimes address and phone, they are making the conscious decision to put that information in a public domain. I know you are probably saying to yourself that you have "privacy" settings, but your information is still in a public area (the world wide web=very public). But the real question that is likely to be debated heavily this year is when you put your information on a profile, does it become the property of the website/social network? In my opinion, the answer is no. That's the whole idea of the Web 2.0 era: websites with content generated by the users. It is the user's content, not the network's. Social networks would be blank pages without the information provided by the users. Facebook certainly shouldn't think they have the right to own that information and do with it what they want. I know they do share some of the responsibility to safeguard their member's information, because otherwise people would be apprehensive about joining and creating that content. However, the information is not theirs, the do not own it and they cannot simply use it for their own advertising purposes (as it was recently thought they might). So, what's the moral of the story? Social networks need to respect the users who generate their content and realize it's not their property, while users need to safeguard themselves and not put information on the web they don't want the world to see.