Three decades after creating the World Wide Web, MIT professor Tim Berners-Lee says that users should demand their personal information from the likes of Google and Facebook which literally siphons data from its users. He says that Web surfers have no idea how valuable their personal information really is to these large companies, echoing criticisms of late stating the same thing. Even more, these "silos" are storing piles and piles of data that the consumer doesn't have and so far really can't use.
"My computer has a great understanding of my state of fitness, of the things I'm eating, of the places I'm at," he told The Guardian in an interview. "My phone understands from being in my pocket how much exercise I've been getting and how many stairs I've been walking up and so on."
He noted that Google now offers immediate access to all data it holds on users. On the Facebook front, the social network will send users their data in one large file although it can take up to three months to receive the information. But what needs to happen is for all companies to agree on a standard output so that consumer devices like desktops, tablets and smartphones can gain access and provide personal, customized services like suggesting what the user should read in the morning.
"It will know not only what's happening out there but also what I've read already and also what my mood is, and who I'm meeting later on," he suggested.
Previously he warned that social-networking "silos" and closed networks like Apple threaten the very openness and universality that he and his fellow architects saw as central to the Internet's design. But he also pointed out that websites come and go no matter how popular and large they are, and that users should back up that information as if they're backing up a hard drive.
"Whatever social site, wherever you put your data, you should make sure that you can get it back and get it back in a standard form," he said. "And in fact if I were you I would do that regularly, just like you back up your computer … maybe our grandchildren depending on which website we use may or may not be able to see our photos."
The problem with Facebook and information stored in Apple's native apps is that it can't be indexed by search engines, thus a good portion of the information is lost. "Every time somebody puts a magazine on a phone now and doesn't put it on to a web app [a form of open software] you know we lose a whole lot of information to the general public discourse – I can't link to it, so I can't tweet it, I can't discuss it, I can't like it, I can't hate it," he said.
To read the full interview, head here.