Wait, did Mozilla just become a data broker?

So the next data wars are about who holds all our attention data, right? Right now Google is doing their best to grab on to this data by logging everything we do via all their services but they’re also giving us our search history, helping us find what we searched for before. Not for us really but for them and when that’s pointed out they do the whole big bad wolf “the better to see you m’dear”. M’yeahright. Sure it helps their search results but it also helps them profile you so they can serve better ads. Yes, they have profiles on us and while they are truthful in that they anonymize our surfing and search data after 18 months, what about the profiles? What about giving us back THAT data?

Then there’s Facebook who too are logging all our interactions with people and profiles. What are they deriving from all of that, would they care to share? No, I doubt it.

Google call this data derived data and while they are truthful about allowing you to export some of your data and just LOVE talking about not holding “user data hostage” the information those magnificent men in their googling machines derive is not given to us and they really don’t want to give that gold away. Lots of excuses why, of course:

“It’s general Google policy to try not hold user data hostage, and we on the Reader team try our best to abide by that. In this case, exporting of attention data is a rather murky concept since there doesn’t seem to be a commonly accepted format for it.

It also depends how to define attention data. You mentioned feed rank, but that’s something that’s computed based on your usage patterns, and thus could be considered derived data, not raw attention data. From what I can tell, at its lowest level attention data is every single action that you have done in an application”

It was in a past blog post here where I said that if we controlled our activity data, we could actually make money from search engines and the likes of Microsoft HealthVault, so there’s potential there. So I was quite interested when Mozilla announced Weave, their system which will store your Firefox preferences on their servers and when you install a new Firefox on a new computer, it can go to the Mozilla servers and download all your preferences and bookmarks. Great. And…

They are building APIs to allow access to it by yourself and others. Very interesting. Lots of great privacy and sharing options means you have full and granular control of your data. They are going with the slow and safe route but you can be sure that when all the bugs and issues are ironed out, your search data and surfing data will suddenly become available to share too. All opt-in too. Read more on their thoughts here. It seems they are taking the Amazon philosophy and encouraging clients and applications to be built on their services, meaning the complexity is up to outside developers while they’ll just offer neutral data moving and storage services. Good call.

This is a massively positive step for the ideas of Attention, the Database of Intentions and Vendor Relationship Marketing. Good one Moz. Think IE8 is about to get another code rewrite?

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3 Responses to “Wait, did Mozilla just become a data broker?”

  1. PaulSweeney says:

    Damien, I’m not a programmer, but I think that some of this was going to be evident from the moment Mozilla said that future versions will have a caching facility a la Gears. As Goog is a backer of Moz they will be aware that people may choose to install a “data broker” of some sort and trade information. John Hagel 3rd wrote about this around yr 2000, i.e. we the users will want to engage in a fair trade between access to our information (intention sets) and the “offers” that others might want to make to us. An interesting twist on this might be what this means for services that rely on your data to create aggregation advantages, i.e. the last user always leaves incremental value behind them after use. In some ways, these services rely on various degrees of “annoymous broadcast” that enables “like minded” individuals to be introduced.

  2. Facebook was keeping our info to better select advertisement. MoveOn.org forced them to back off. Google’s intentions are either more obscure or more transparent; it depends on how you look at Google.
    A company involved in s much secrecy, whose employees give you their first name only, a company that keeps all of its employees hostages of its abundance: free food and drinks, bring your dog to work, etc. cannot have any but evil intentions.
    Google, Inc. can’t interpret the EFF properly, their relationship site, orkut, is a home for vandalism and it’ll stay that way.
    If you don’t want your info divulged, don’t expose it on the Net.

  3. Segala says:

    A real Semantic Web browser, enabling trust on the Web…

    I picked up on an interesting post about attention data from Damien Mulley’s blog. Whilst writing a comment on his post, I realised it was turning into an epic. It presented me with an opportunity to talk about Segala’s Semantic Web Firefox…

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