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Portability and Interoperability (stratechery.com)
54 points by kaboro 3 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 10 comments





> This does, in a privacy context, make perfect sense. At the same time, it is ground zero for how privacy regulation can often be at odds with encouraging competition

No it's not.

According to the article: Facebook could argue that letting me export who I'm friends with (the "social graph") would run afoul of privacy regulations, because that data belongs to my friends, not me.

But if that's the case, why was I able to give this data to Facebook to begin with? It wasn't mine to give, right?

I can completely understand the logic that my contact list shouldn't "belong" to me. However, if we as a society want to proceed down that road, a service like Facebook can never exist.

As long as Facebook exists, my contact list is clearly my property, and I should be able to export it.


But if that's the case, why was I able to give this data to Facebook to begin with? It wasn't mine to give, right?

As long as Facebook exists, my contact list is clearly my property, and I should be able to export it.

Data just doesn't work naturally with the traditional concept of "belonging". It's natural for a physical object to have a single owner, and that owner has property rights, like you need to get the owner's permission to do anything with the object, and the owner has the right to give that object to someone else.

But for data, it's far more common for data to be about multiple people and entities, and no single one is the owner. If I buy you an Amazon gift card, that transaction involves you, me, and Amazon. Who "owns" that data? It just doesn't map to ownership.

You have to think in terms of rights for any of this to make sense. Who has the right to use the data, and who has the right to transfer the data to third parties?

It looks like society is converging on a system where some entities will have the right to use data that they do not have the right to transfer. That isn't how traditional object ownership rights work, but the rules around data usage don't have to map to the rules around physical object usage.


Copyright is no less a concrete concept, and that can have single owners, so this is already a somewhat solved problem.

Invoking rights helps nothing, ownership is already inherently about who has rights, so all you do is muddle the meaning of "own" by diluting it.


Copyright is a concept from an earlier era when copying something required both, a somewhat unwieldy machine, and a physical object for each copy.

indeed, ownership is already about who has rights but it is also limited by the nature of whatever is being owned.

If we focus on inescapable constraints, i.e. not those imposed by society (which are arbitrary and can be changed), it turns out that technological developments have removed some of those constraints.

All you do is ignore new possibilities (and their accompanying new problems) by holding on to legal notions first introduced in the 17th century.


Let's say you added friends on Facebook by entering their email addresses (or phone numbers, social security numbers, any unique identifiers). That list of emails is certainly your property and you should be able to export it. It would also be usable with another service, spurring competition and so on.

However, a lot of friend adding is searching by name and disambiguating by photos, or adding someone who is a friend of a friend. In these cases, what fields are in the contact list export?


> However, a lot of friend adding is searching by name and disambiguating by photos, or adding someone who is a friend of a friend.

That is a very good point I didn't consider! The process of adding friends is heavily reliant on information other people have added to Facebook.

I still find like the list of people I've added (names) is ultimately mine and should be exportable. Any information a friend added to their Facebook profile—pictures, addresses, etc—belongs to that person, not me, and should not be included in the export.


Is it your property, or is it Facebook’s property? Facebook clearly has control of your friend list on their network. Perhaps you only have access to the data Facebook has without actually owning it.

Maybe it's debatable now whose property it is.

But I'd imagine many people think it's their own property that they allow Facebook to hold and control on their behalf. The users still retain all the ownership rights associated with that contact list... or so they hope.

It's like buying stocks. Often times a brokerage will hold ownership of stocks that clients buy, on behalf of the client. Doesn't mean the brokerage can do just whatever it wants with my stocks.


It's property I gave to Facebook by adding friends in the first place.

("I" being theoretical; I don't use Facebook.)


Talk is cheap. If they care about interoperability, why are they not using federated instant messaging services? Theirs are completely walled.



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