Talking tech since 2003

As you may be aware, Facebook has recently begun the introduction of a feature that will allow users to download an offline copy of their social network profile that they will be able to view and tinker with as they see fit. While this does show Facebook’s sense of privacy in allowing you to see exactly what you have saved on their servers, there is a more interesting aspect to this whole concept.

The feature, entitled “Download Your Information” is strikingly similar to the “export” feature that many of us see in our day-to-day lives in the sense that it extract the data from Facebook’s servers and format it in such a matter that you can easily browse it. This is the same principle that I use when exporting my Google calendar or backing up the financial software at work. Anyone who has ever used an export feature knows that right next to the “export” button, there is usually an “import” button that uploads information to a server or application.  Which leads to the question, why would Facebook allow (or need) you to import your data? That wouldn’t make any sense.

What does make sense is the possibility that one could, in theory, import their Facebook profile into another social network; most notably the privacy-focused Diaspora project.

So, at the end of the day, we need to take a step back and ask ourselves; is Facebook giving users the key to migrate their information to other social networks? While one wouldn’t think that Facebook would be too favorable of this idea, it seems that they are in a sense preparing for it.

In the official demonstration video for the new feture, David Recordon – a member of Facebook’s Open-Source team – talks about taking precautions when “saving, sending, or uploading it [the ZIP file] to other services.” To me, it almost seems that Facebook is acknowledging that people will indeed try and upload their Facebook profiles to other services.

With this story, there are a handful of questions that have yet to be answered. Why is Facebook allowing for people to download their data? Are they trying to appear more security-conscious? And will other networks create a way for people to upload or import their Facebook profiles. Better yet, would people take advantage of it? As with all questions, time will tell.

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