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  ‘Data Bill of Rights’ vs. ‘Avatar Bill of Rights’  
Posted 2006-11-27 by Tony Walsh
I love the "Data Bill of Rights" established by financial community Wesabe:
  • You can export and/or delete your data from Wesabe whenever you want.
  • Your data is your data, not ours. Our job is to help you understand and act on your data.
  • We’ll keep all of your data online and accessible for as long as you have an account. No “archive access” charges.
  • Any data you want us to keep private, we will.
  • If a question comes up not covered by these rights, we will answer it remembering that your data belongs to you.
This is refreshingly ungrabby and user-centric--I wish more services would adopt Wesabe's attitude. One of the main criteria I have for picking online services is their handling of my data, so if I can't take it with me, or it's used unreasonably (such as stored longer than I wish it to be), I'm not likely to use the service.

I'd be happier with virtual worlds and video games if user data was actually, completely owned by the user--portability and longevity being of primary interest. How about a mashup between Wesabe's Data Bill of Rights and Raph Koster's Avatar Bill of Rights? I realize there are numerous technical and security issues involved in packing up one's data and moving from one service to another, but I'm hoping for a more portable future. Currently, it's generally tricky to move from one "realm" in an MMOG to another server in the same MMOG (exceptions include EVE Online), and it's (probably) impossible to move from one MMO to another. The virtual world of Second Life at least has permeable server boundaries, but while its residents own the IP rights to content they create, creators don't own the data that permits their content to exist.

If I'm paying for the privilege of inhabiting a game or virtual world for dozens of hours weekly, I want to be able to take away more than just an enjoyable experience--I want my cake and its portable data, too. This is particularly true in online spaces that facilitate user-created content. Such spaces could be viewed as tools that facilitate the creation of work products. When I create an image with Photoshop, Adobe doesn't own the image, even though I am only licensing its creation tool. I think part of what will allow the MMO industry to continue to progress will be a shift in current thinking from a top-down approach (game makers own gamer data and content) to a bottom-up approach (game makers recognize gamer ownership of data and facilitate content-creation). The more users experience the bottom-up approach through progressive online services, the more they seem to expect it--at least the last 7 or 8 years has shown this, with the rise of blogs and other forms of social media. I look forward to the evolution of interoperable Multiverse-based games and worlds--I suspect (however incorrectly) that a user-centric approach will be common practice among developers, if not a necessity.
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