Friday, August 13, 2010

Google's Data Liberation Front

With all the news lately about Google's apparent deal with Verizon and what it may mean for net neutrality, it can be hard to remember Google's informal motto of "Don't Be Evil," or just hard to believe that it actually means something.  There have been issues with Google not always following through with this motto to the satisfaction of many in the past, but that is beside the point.  No company is perfect, and I'm not here to defend Google on other issues or to criticize them, all I want to do is praise a team in Google that I see to be doing something good for the internet.

In 2007, an internal engineering team at Google named itself "the Data Liberation Front."  Their goal is to make it easier for users to retain control of their data.  They do this by creating ways for users to easily backup their data from Google services and also to remove it from these services.

The argument for users retaining control over their own data is one that has been a rather large issue over the past few years.  Groups advocating privacy and internet user rights have complained against Facebook and other companies for their stances on data ownership or users not being able to satisfactorily remove their data from the offending company's servers.

Even Google has been in the cross-hairs before on the amount personal data they collect from users, store, and use for advertising purposes. The Data Liberation Front is a refreshing change from all of this though, on their homepage, you can find their mission statement easily visible in large red letters:

Users should be able to control the data they store 
in any of Google's products.  Our team's goal is to 
make it easier to move data in and out.

They admit that they haven't perfected this on all the Google services, but they are working on it.  On the site you can also find a list of products they have already worked on allowing you to liberate your data.  

I'm a big fan of what this team is doing, and though I realize they have been around for a few years and this is in no way new news, I wanted to mention them here in order to spread the word.

Also, everyone likes stickers (at least, I know I do, my laptops are covered in them).  The Data Liberation project currently has a way you can show your support for them, and that is by proudly displaying Stickers from Data Liberation Farms (which you can get for free!).  I received both of mine in the mail today:

As you can see, it also came with a surprise, a small sticker of the Data Liberation Front logo, which I've already put to work on my netbook:

You can find out more information about the Data Liberation Front on their website at  Additionally, you can follow along with their mission at the Data Liberation Blog or on Twitter at @dataliberation.

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