What becomes of the data on social networks?

01 May 2013 by Sam Wiltshire

One billion: the number of people with Facebook accounts according to a survey performed in November 2012. Although a significant player when it comes to data transit on the internet, Facebook is not the only one. We ask ourselves: what becomes of the data on social networks?

Do we honestly believe that data on social networks might end up as rubbish in a rubbish dump? Do we imagine that it gets piled-up, decomposing after being squeezed and crushed? Of course not! As long as data has not been deleted in line with the conditions in the contractual terms of your account, all the actions performed on the data, including the links from it to other accounts, remain active; reactivated data can be found at the front of the line almost instantaneously.

This means several things. Firstly, that this data can be used accessed by the storing and archiving administrators of the website on which you have chatted and posted things. They are able to do what they wish with the data, within the agreed conditions of your account contract. These masses of information could be used by marketers to help create new products and services designed to target you better…

Is it possible to influence this data?

Yes, if the conditions permit, like with Facebook for example. But not if the data has been extracted and processed by a third party. Imagine a photo that is fun in a certain context, but which could mean anything out of this context. A photo that has only been posted for a few hours could have been copied and reused by a third party without your knowledge, and could reappear at any moment in the future…

When the creators of Web 2.0 set the objective of being able to free-up data in order to make it easier to be manipulated by all sorts of applications, the initiative was revolutionary, and has permitted this fabulous creativity we see on social networks. And what might become of the data on social networks with Web 3.0? The main difference lies in the fact that users will have a digital identity which allows them to control all the information they broadcast over networks.

It’s as if all your data were connected to life-support: the user could, at any time, chose to permanently cut off any piece of data regardless of where it might be. This might work if making copies of the original were impossible, and also if all information published on the internet were to carry some kind of unique or ’origin’ stamp. This is indeed possible, but is subject to a regulatory process and the policies that go with it.


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