We tend to think that certain things will be around forever. Brands we love, bull markets and governments all act as though they will continue indefinitely. Dominance intends that its dominance persist, but everything comes to an end. If all your personal data lived in Google’s cloud, what happens when Google goes out of business? How are you going to get your data out? Is cloud-based computing being built with the assumption that all of the players will exist forever? The more locked in your data is to proprietary formats, the less liquid it is.
Money, cash in particular, has become data; and the speed with which it can move and transform defines its liquidity. How liquid is our personal data? Those financial institutions that custody our financial assets cooperate so that we can move our holdings from one institution to another. How do the web institutions that custody our personal data measure up?
Marc Canter has talked about having a “DeBabelizer” for personal data. That’s a tool we used in the old days to translate graphic file formats to work with our local platform and toolset. It was essential in the days before consolidation and cross-platform graphic software. The prospect of having to unscramble my personal data is not comforting. The only reason to have a DeBabelizer is that one is surrounded by Babel.
Movements like data portability are largely a matter of metaphors and memes. The technology has to be very simple to actually work. The extent to which the meme is highly contagious within the general user population is the extent of the movement’s success. My contribution to the conversation is to measure the liquidity of personal data. For instance, I can imagine trading liquidity for higher value. But I’d like to know when I’m entering into that contract.