Cloud based computing and data storage is something that I find fascinating. The whole concept of moving away from rigid hosting centres to a distributed system, where data just flows around the web and gets requested and added to by apps and services also in the cloud opens up so many possibilities. Where cloud based computing is going is anyones guess but this great article by Carl Hewitt on O’Reilly Radar gives makes a good assumption at where the storage of personal data could be going and identifies a lot of the issues that will arise around privacy and regulation (good read).


The interesting stuff on privacy etc aside, it was Carl’s description of personal ‘client’ clouds in particular that drew me to write about it. This is something I’ve been thinking of for a while; particularly with reference to the data that services like Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr store on my behalf. At the moment that data is hosted by each service provider in their choice of data centre and data from other services can only interact with it with the help of OpenAuth, Facebook Connect and other ID services I can subscribe to. What I’d really like to do is hold my data myself, perhaps in a client cloud, and make it accessible to the services I choose.

This led me to think; could services like Facebook and Twitter work on a cloud data model whereby they don’t host anything for you apart from basic identity mapping to enable you to log in? Once logged in your data would be accessed by the application (say Twitter for example) from your client cloud storage solution using an identity key so the experience wouldn’t change. As broadband speeds increase, storage becomes cheaper still and processing speeds go up this should be possible if the privacy issues could be overcome. Imagine being able to take real control over what data you leave behind and actually have the option to disclose data to applications to make them usable but then update that and keep it with you in your storage repository. Every user would have an API key for each web app allowing the services to continue to work when you’re not ‘online’ (although in this scenario you’re data is always online) so functionality wouldn’t be affected.

Of course Facebook and co. want your data to enable them to target their ads better. If we owned our data then we’d be able to allow them access to whatever pieces we wanted to release for advertising purposes. Happy with them being able to target you based on factors such as what sex you are and location but don’t want them to target you based on the last product you recommended? If you owned your data then that would be possible.

The ability to have all your data available to then share with other apps and mashups make this a very attractive proposition to me. I think we’ll begin to see web apps which leave the data on your hard drive soon (in fact there probably are some already), so how much longer till we take that a step further and put all our data in the cloud?


Phorm; good or bad form?

March 17, 2008

Sir Tim Berners-Lee has come out as against the planned Phorm advert and tracking network today (more here from the BBC).

It was announced a couple of weeks ago that leading ISP’s were planning to use Phorm as a platform to serve up targeted adverts to ISP registrants. It’s been touted as a great way to provide more relevant ads to users and all the initial talk seemed like PR spin designed to mask any potential privacy issues.

Now at last the privacy issues are getting a good airing!

Personally I’m against my ISP using the data of my surfing habits for advertising purposes. I use my ISP for access to the internet, I do not expect them to share my data on surfing habits with anyone (unless asked to by the authorities…).

Other blogs are asking what the fuss is about this and comparing Phorm to behavioral targeting technologies in use on retail websites. I disagree with this completely as this is going to collect data at the ISP level and share it with any websites which serve adverts through Phorm, this makes it far more pervasive.

An interesting question has to be asked though; how does this differ to Google / Doubleclick? If Google starts to share behavioral search data with Doubleclicks ad serving platform isn’t that going to be similarly invasive to users privacy? Potentially; although at least we expect that from Google as an ad revenue based business…

Interestingly, the BBC has just published a story that states that the Foundation for Information Policy Research has claimed that Phorm could well be illegal. They believe Phorm contravenes the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA), which protects users from unlawful interception of information.

This has the potential to get very interesting and could open up other networks and ad serving technologies to scrutiny.

IP addresses private data?

January 22, 2008

An EU official has told a hearing of the European Parliament that IP addresses should be regarded as personal data as they can identify users addresses and locations. This was heard in regards to inquiries into search engines and data protection. Google have said that they only use the data to improve results and relevance for users.

This has larger implications for some metrics companies and users of methods to produce mosaic breakdowns of users based on IP address.

I’ve no problem with anyone knowing my IP address in order to provide me with more accuracy in their services. However some companies base their entire business models on making use of this data and any new laws on use of IP addresses could impact them greatly. Location based services are hugely important to the webs future (in my opinion) especially to mobile web.

One to watch…

The Guardian has a story about this topic that I’ve blogged about before here.

An admissions tutor from Cambridge Uni in the UK has admitted that he checks up on potential students Facebook profiles. Of course the uni’s insist that a students success or failure to be admitted is purely down to their performance in interviews, academic record etc, not because of what their social network profile contains.

Many people feel this is really intrusive, but I believe it’s a natural course for anyone to take when there is information out there. This again reinforces my belief that you should never post anything up on a social network that you wouldn’t want your boss/tutor/Mum/priest to see!

This just in…

After my post earlier today about the murmurs that Google would get DoubleClick approval I can now inform you that it’s happened!

That was quick! The FTC voted 4-1 in favour of the deal and concluded that the deal would not substantially lessen competition.

Well done Google! Look forward to seeing the first development come out of this partnership!

Google to get DoubleClick??

December 20, 2007

Bloomberg are reporting that Google may well get what it wants and secure the DoubleClick acquisition it’s been looking for.

About time too! It’s been going on for far too long now, it makes sense to just get it over with, there are far bigger threats to our online privacy than this merger. Every other major player has managed to buy an advertising network this year, so why not Google too?

This is coming too late for some though. Viacom have just signed a deal to move over to Microsoft, away from DoubleClick. Perhaps they would have stayed if Google had the reigns?

I’ve written previously abut a concept I’ve termed Self PR Online (here and here) but it seems my posts aren’t getting to the right people.

Now CNN have jumped on the bandwagon and written a piece about a Facebook group called ’30 Reasons Girls Should Call it a Night’. It’s basically a Facebook group with over 170,000 members (mostly women) devoted to tales of drunken debauchery and lurid times (all good clean fun in my opinion).

However, it seems the women who are members of this group could really do with taking note of my blog posts as they’re (apparently) posting all kinds of imagery that may not go down so well with employers or colleges.

Personally I find this quite amusing, as in my opinion any employer worth working for wouldn’t care about a few drunken photos and any person who posts really bad photos is probably unemployable anyway 😉

The advice I gave in previous posts still stands, don’t post anything you wouldn’t want an employer to see, these things have a habit of getting out and becoming public!