At the Internet Governance Forum in Sharm El Sheikh this week, there was a conversation on social networking data. Someone made the point that there are several different types of data, and it would be useful to separate them. This is my taxonomy of social networking data.
- Service data. Service data is the data you need to give to a social networking site in order to use it. It might include your legal name, your age, and your credit card number.
- Disclosed data. This is what you post on your own pages: blog entries, photographs, messages, comments, and so on.
- Entrusted data. This is what you post on other people's pages. It's basically the same stuff as disclosed data, but the difference is that you don't have control over the data -- someone else does.
- Incidental data. Incidental data is data the other people post about you. Again, it's basically same same stuff as disclosed data, but the difference is that 1) you don't have control over it, and 2) you didn't create it in the first place.
- Behavioral data. This is data that the site collects about your habits by recording what you do and who you do it with.
Different social networking sites give users different rights for each data type. Some are always private, some can be made private, and some are always public. Some can be edited or deleted -- I know one site that allows entrusted data to be edited or deleted within a 24-hour period -- and some cannot. Some can be viewed and some cannot.
And people should have different rights with respect to each data type. It's clear that people should be allowed to change and delete their disclosed data. It's less clear what rights they have for their entrusted data. And far less clear for their incidental data. If you post pictures of a party with me in them, can I demand you remove those pictures -- or at least blur out my face? And what about behavioral data? It's often a critical part of a social networking site's business model. We often don't mind if they use it to target advertisements, but are probably less sanguine about them selling it to third parties.
As we continue our conversations about what sorts of fundamental rights people have with respect to their data, this taxonomy will be useful.