26 September 2009

O tempora o mores!

Oh the times! Oh the customs! Or so said Cicero in 63 B.C. in his first oration against Catiline. People have been repeating damnations of their times since the dawn of human civilization. Cicero complained about his age's corruption and enmity. People today complain about corruption, enmity and a lack of privacy in a digital age. I think corruption and enmity are with us for keeps, but our pals at Google launched a campaign to do something about digital privacy a couple of weeks ago.

The Digital Liberation Front is the guerrilla-sounding name of an engineering initiative Google's implementing across all of their products. In a nutshell, it means that removing your personal data (from photographs to billing information to blog posts) should be as easy as entering it.

It may not sound like much, but ask anyone who's been foolish enough to sign up for Classmates.com how much trouble it is to close an account and delete information on a lot of online sites and services.

Here's an excerpt from The Digital Liberation Front's website:
The Data Liberation Front is an engineering team at Google whose singular goal is to make it easier for users to move their data in and out of Google products.  We do this because we believe that you should be able to export any data that you create in (or import into) a product.  We help and consult other engineering teams within Google on how to liberate their products. This is our mission statement:
Users should be able to control the data they store in any of Google's products. Our team's goal is to make it easier for them to move data in and out.
People usually don't look to see if they can get their data out of a product until they decide one day that they want to leave  For this reason, we always encourage people to ask these three questions before starting to use a product that will store their data:
  1. Can I get my data out at all?
  2. How much is it going to cost to get my data out?
  3. How much of my time is it going to take to get my data out?
The ideal answers to these questions are:
  1. Yes.
  2. Nothing more than I'm already paying.
  3. As little as possible.
There shouldn't be an additional charge to export your data. Beyond that, if it takes you many hours to get your data out, it's almost as bad as not being able to get your data out at all.

We don't think that our products are perfect yet, but we're continuing to work at making it easier to get your data in and out of them.  Visit our Google Moderator page to vote on and add suggestions on what you'd like to see liberated and why.

The Data Liberation Front is an engineering initiative at Google, it's a refinement to Google's core values. Don't expect any great announcements, but watch data hostage taking (Facebook) start to wane. Since it's Google who's embracing this path in a very public way, expect the rest of the internet to follow suite. Make that, demand that the rest of the internet follow suite.


  1. Domine, dona eis secretum! (Grant them privacy oh Lord --I think)

    Behold the power of a Liberal Arts education Julie.


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