Collaboration

How open should the Internet be?

The Internet, founded on the ideal that information should be free and readily available, has been in the process of becoming more and more proprietary over the last few years as Net giants do everything they can to lock users (and their data) into their interfaces.

The Internet, founded on the ideal that information should be free and readily available, has been in the process of becoming more and more proprietary over the last few years as Net giants do everything they can to lock users (and their data) into their interfaces. The business reasons are sound -- ad revenue only comes when users go to the site where the ad shows -- but closing off users from accessing their data in ways convenient to them flies in the face of what (in my humble opinion) the Internet should be. Several businesses have been busily closing off access to "bots," or automated scripts that "scrape" data from sites like Google, Craigslist, Facebook, or Myspace.

Should Web Giants Let Startups Use the Information They Have About You? (Wired)

Facebook was roundly criticized recently for its behavior with regards to information that its users post online, particularly the "Beacon" program. Then, they suspended the account of a user who wrote a script to "scrape" his own data from the site, despite the fact that it was all data that the user entered himself. These and other privacy concerns are all too apparent in the calls from advocates who decry the fact that Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and other search engines retain user search data for 13 to 18 months.

Is Facebook Beacon a Privacy Nightmare? (Gigaom)

Facebook Makes us all Look Like Suckers (Wired)

Fears mount over internet privacy (Times Online)

I understand why the Internet giants don't want people to scrape their data. However, when someone comes up with a service that people like (as in the Listpic service discussed in the first article), I would think that the companies involved (Craigslist, in this case) would buy the technology for their own uses rather than sending a cease and desist letter. This reminds me of the MSN/AOL IM wars that went back and forth for months. In my opinion, companies should at least provide an API that allows users to access their content in a way that suits the user's needs. Do you think that the Web giants should allow access to data through bots, spiders, or APIs?

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21 comments
Eoghan
Eoghan

Time for everyone to step back and re-read "The Cuckoo's Nest" by Cliff Stoll. You will find the argument that the internet should be wide-open (academia speaking here) and that it should be closed down tight (industry and military talking here). Cliff is well known for being the impetus behind what we now know as the Information Systems Security field, which is why I say - re-read his book. Its from 1988 - and NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Nah, that makes too much sense. I still don't understand why these government and corporate employees are allowed to download all this personal data to their laptops. We wouldn't care if the portables were stolen if the data was locked on the secured server where it belongs.

Andy Moon
Andy Moon

If I enter data at Myspace and want a script to retrieve information, I think that Myspace should provide a way for me to do it. I understand that they receive ad revenue, but if another interface is more convenient, friendly, or attractive to me, I should have the right to display my data in a way that meets my needs. I believe that companies that ask us to enter personal information should also have to provide alternative means of retrieving that information. I understand that bots and spiders can slow down searches for regular users, but this is the reason that these companies should have APIs that allow nonstandard access. How open do you want the Internet to be?

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

you planting an apple tree in my yard and expecting me to pack them up for you come harvest time... not bloody likely!

jperick.mbei
jperick.mbei

This question, albeit pertinent, is evasive. I would reword it this way: Does accessibility to Intersources preclude privacy protection? I think that in today's extremely dangerous Internet environment, dominated by rampant ID theft, user privacy should not be negotiated. In orther terms, companies that provide search capabilities should provide ultra protection against access to personal data. There is a huge difference between access to technology related resources, or edu cational resources that are publicly available and to which access is granted under intellectual property/copyright regulations, and access to personal data. No company should share users' personally idenfiable data. Companies that fail to protect users private data should be held to account according to governing state and federal regulations. Sadly, states and the fed are not a great example when it comes to protecting users' data. For instance, many state and fed websites display people most valuable piece of identification, i.e., the SSN (Washington Post, January 3, 2008 release).

michaels.perry
michaels.perry

In the UK, our government have just 'lost' millions of records containing very personal and sensitive data. If data/information were to be more easily available on the Internet, just image what a field day that would be for identity thieves, crooks, fraudsters, etc. There is no way that any such data or information should become available via the web, so I vote very strongly against the whole idea. A further thought - so much of the 'information' offered is actually opinion but too few users, especially school pupils, realise that and so are misled seriously. Example, an article said that the UK 'Green Goddess' fire appliances were only 4x4 and used by the Army - as an ex-fireman I know they were 2x4 and 4x4, never used by the Army until there was a strike but they were regularly used by the Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) until 1968. Quite a big difference in fact.

Photogenic Memory
Photogenic Memory

However, when you sign on to a service you abide by their rules unless specified otherwise. That means that you behave so make nice. There's nothing wrong with hacking an API but do it on the sligh. That means don't run progs that catch the attention or take down and disrupt the services of others. Especially services you pay for? It's complete common sense right?!

ManiacMan
ManiacMan

If you have an issue with that, you can always setup your own web server, which will cost you a good amount per month to run, or find a reputable hosting service that won't care what APIs' and tools you use on your page. Anytime you use someone else's service, you are bound by their terms. If you don't like it, host your own web server and do whatever you want with it.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"I should have the right to display my data in a way that meets my needs." You have the right to do that; it's called hosting your own web site. When you voluntarily set up that MySpace account, you agreed to their terms of service. If you use an interface other than theirs and bypass their ad content, how are they expected to pay for the servers that host the data? "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch."

Icejon
Icejon

Even hosting your own website can still get you shutdown. Nothing is free anymore, including information.

jdclyde
jdclyde

[i]"I'd rather be a conservative nut job than a liberal with no nuts and no job!"[/i] It just blows my mind how weenies think they have a "right" to anything other than what they have paid for. Just one more thing wrong with many of the PEOPLE in the world today.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

But ask the pundits, JD, which is the liberal party and which is the conservative party. Then look at the official party platforms over the past few elections. If you read independent of preconception, the Republicans look like liberals and the Democrats are almost reactionary.

IC-IT
IC-IT

I consider myself a very Liberal Conservative. With a closer connection to the (old style) Democrat Party (note, not democratic, as that would include both/all parties). After a few civil (and some heated) debates with a lot of my self-declared Republican friends, we had to agree that there are a lot of shared common values and morality. I try to vote for the best candidate, regardless of party affiliation. The Conservative pundits (a vast majority, if not all, Republican) like to scream about the left wing and then paint all Democrats with that label. This is an obvious attempt to gather their base into a tight little group that could not possibly consider a candidate of the "other" party. This is a very dividing action. They tend to overlook the fact that we need a person to work for the best interests of the US and it's citizens, rather than a ton of "special interest groups". That will take a very special person and indeed may not be amoung this seasons crop. There seems to be a trend developing that people are starting to wakeup and desire a change. Just for the record, I did "do for my Country" (24 years USAF) and still do in other ways. Damn, I almost sound like the booted wannabi ;-)

jdclyde
jdclyde

How about the "Ask NOT what your Country can do for you?" We don't hear about that anymore, do we? Todays "liberal", nor the Democratic party, has very little in common with JFK.

jdclyde
jdclyde

And GWB has shown he is no conservative.

rpnrch
rpnrch

Unless you already had that wealth to begin with.

IC-IT
IC-IT

But it can change if we realize that, just because someone is holding a paintbrush, it does not necessarily mean that they are a painter.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Political liberals are painted as in favor of big and intrusive government and redistribution of wealth. Political conservatives are painted as in favor of smaller, less intrusive government and the personal accumulation of wealth. Strangely, the current "conservative" President has done much to increase the size and intrusiveness of government and to reduce the ability to accumulate personal wealth.

IC-IT
IC-IT

The new use of those terms is pretty sickening, especially when by true definitions many (if not most) folks are both. The new definitions seem to only mean your quote, and are only used to divide. I rather like the way JFK responded to that charge. September 14, 1960 What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label "Liberal?" If by "Liberal" they mean, as they want people to believe, someone who is soft in his policies abroad, who is against local government, and who is unconcerned with the taxpayer's dollar, then the record of this party and its members demonstrate that we are not that kind of "Liberal." But if by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people -- their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties -- someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal," then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal." http://www.liberalparty.org/JFKLPAcceptance.html

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