Data Liberation and Ownership

I split my blogging between this and the FXPAL blog.  This morning I have a post on the latter site that asks an (imho) important question about data ownership and data liberation with respect to one’s web search history.. not just the queries, but the results produce by a mashup between those queries and the back-end algorithms.  Here is the key point:

Here is an analogy by way of Adobe Photoshop.  Suppose you open one of your images in the online (webapp) version of Photoshop, apply the Gaussian Blur (soft focus) filter to the image, and then save that result out again.  It’s clear that you own the input (it’s your photo), that Adobe owns the Gaussian Blur algorithm (or at least the implementation of it), and that you own the resulting image.  Adobe doesn’t lay ownership claim to the output of the algorithm, even though it was their algorithm that produced the output.

So how is this different from a web search?  You own the input (the query string that you type).  Google owns the algorithm that transforms that input into a list of results.  So wouldn’t you also then own the output of that transformation?  Not the algorithm, but the output of the algorithm, i.e. the results set.  Just like you own the output in Photoshop.

It will be interesting to see whether or not Google will be open enough to allow you to extract this particular form of your data.  Currently, they do not.

I would invite you to visit the FXPAL blog, and read the post in full.  And comment/disagree, where necessary.

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