Social networking and portability

One of the more interesting speakers at Infosec's "Locking Down Social Networking Vulnerabilities" event today - itself locked down by a power cut just as Facebook's Max Kelly was cutting to the nub of his gist - was Giles Hogben of the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA).

One of the more interesting speakers at Infosec's "Locking Down Social Networking Vulnerabilities" event today - itself locked down by a power cut just as Facebook's Max Kelly was cutting to the nub of his gist - was Giles Hogben of the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA).

Hogben was suggesting, as he did in a report to the European Commission last year, that users of social networking sites like Facebook should be able to export their profiles - a "secure briefcase", in his words - rather than being stuck in the current situation, where it is impossible to get your data off Facebook's servers whether or not you "deactivate" your account. In other words, the social network's servers won't hold your profile - you will, encrypted on a USB key. Which you can then take around different social networks.

I can see his point, but also the obvious flaw. Despite OpenSocial and such initiatives, can you imagine social networks really opening the door for their users to wander off with all their data, not leaving any "stickiness" for the social network? Perhaps I'm being overly cynical, but I think it'll be a cold day in hell before we see the likes of Facebook agree to that. In the words of Hogben, speaking to me after the abbreviated panel discussion: "The social network provider would provide you with a platform, but they wouldn't get to see the data."

Then how would they make any money and stay viable? If the EC takes this suggestion on board then we're in for an entertaining fight.