The Liberty of Data

Loraine Lawson

It's the Fourth of July, the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, in which the representatives of the 13 colonies informed King George III of their intent to create a new nation. It's a dignified document, as is befitting the men who wrote it as they asserted a basic right to equality and self-determination. It was radical then, breaking from the King's God-given right to govern to the idea that government's authority is derived from the "consent of the governed."


It's odd how something so basic originally seems revolutionary. And yet, once a paradigm is established, it's hard to see things any other way.


This Fourth of July, I encourage you to think about your data - your business data, as well as your own, personal data - and whether or not it's freely available to you, or whether it's increasingly coming under the tyranny of silos online and in the cloud.


Frank Johnson recently wrote an excellent three-part series, "The IT Reformation and the Splinternet," in which he explores the dangerous convergence of two major trends: Businesses acquiring their own technology solutions without involving IT and online applications - think Facebook, Salesforce - walling themselves off from the rest of the Internet.


The first post includes this alarming quote from O'Reilly Media founder Tim O'Reilly:

We're heading into a war for control of the web. And in the end, it's more than that, it's a war against the web as an interoperable platform. Instead, we're facing the prospect of Facebook as the platform, Apple as the platform, Google as the platform, Amazon as the platform, where big companies slug it out until one is king of the hill.

Johnson discusses how these silos will impact data governance, application integration, the creation of master data repositories and even postpone the Semantic Web. It's an eye-opening, somber read that makes me believe it's time to rethink what our inalienable rights are when it comes to the data we create and should rightfully own.


If you're wondering what such a "Bill of Rights" might look like, check out John Battelle's 2007 draft of a "Data Bill of Rights," which includes a call for data portability, data editing and data permissions, among other things. It's an excellent starting point for the discussion on the liberation of data.


Now, go set off some fireworks! But be careful and don't shoot your eye out!

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jul 5, 2011 10:09 AM Frank Johnson Frank Johnson  says:

Hi, Loraine -- great column on a great day. Thank you, too, for your gracious comments.


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