To the average user, it's important to learn the lessons of MySpace because it's a cycle in the information technology industry that is constantly in a loop.
Lessons Not Learned
Over ten years ago, MySpace was the dominant community platform – the fancy term "social media" didn't exist then. Users invest a lot of time on it, connecting with like minded people and sharing experiences and photos. The platform includes private Inbox, where users can use to communicate with each other like an email. Then around 2011, Justin Timberlake and Specific Media Group bought the company. Usually, acquisitions meant change was going to happen to a service, either it's augmented, merged with new resources or shelved, depending on the intentions of the new owners. For MySpace, the platform was still going to continue to operate, but they want to cater to different demographic — namely musicians and artists. The nightmare happened when they migrated user data to the redesigned system without giving users advanced notice nor gave users the chance to download personal data. The worst part of it all was that they discarded quite a lot of user data, specifically, messages. User Inbox became inaccessible. Users complaints poured in, and lawsuits were filed. It took their support team months to reply to the inquiries. Unfortunately, according to them, the migration process destroyed the messages, making them unrecoverable. Of course, there's no way to ascertain the truth. There were plenty of really sad stories from affected users, like a wife and child who lost messages (including photo attachments) from her late husband, or users losing important information and documents was very common. For me personally, fond messages from a friend who recently passed at that time were all lost. Messages and data users lost may sound trivial to companies like MySpace, but they're memories, experiences and irreplaceable personal records. And they're lost forever because of gross negligence. Users trusted the company… used their system in good faith, only to be screwed in the end.
The case is not unique to MySpace, this is a recurring issue with tech companies. Other companies who made a similar disservice are: Excite purged mailboxes, Yahoo purged mailboxes, and Hotmail wiped out mailboxes. Even other community platforms like http://gay.com destroyed data after redesigns. It may sound like a seedy site, but back then, it was a real community site where LGBT folks from San Francisco bay area use to fraternize and mingle. The only company that hasn't made such a grievous mistake is Google.
Even if we justify that culling user data was done to save the company, there's no excuse for not giving users a chance to download their data. After all, these companies are already making money from their users through paid ads, or in Facebook's case, selling/loaning user information. They owe it to their users to do the right thing.
The Cloud… and Subscriptions Fees
These days, it's cloud this, cloud that. There's a relentless push by tech companies to convince people to move their data to the cloud. For companies, it’s a joy to charge people recurring fees. No thank you. Red flags raising everywhere.
From the get go, it was apparent that a subscription fee will be imposed on users once more people use the service. It’s not an uncommon business practice to offer something for free at first to get customers to patronize a product or service then gradually charge them for it once it becomes popular. But why would you pay to access information you already own? What's more, the need to be tethered all the time to access data becomes an issue when you are always on the go or travel to regions (or places in your local area) with slow or no internet connection.
Then there's a small case about the government. National Security Surveillance Authorities, like the NSA (National Security Agency), can force companies to surrender user data without a court order through FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act). They've done this already with Google, Facebook and telecom companies. And these companies did pledge to comply with such requests. Surely, one may argue, "I'm not worried, I have nothing to hide." That's pretty much assuming that the process will only be used for good, and that these agencies are incapable of being corrupted. News flash, the act has already been exploited.
Then there's also the matter about companies exploiting user data, like selling or loaning for millions of dollars (case in point, Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal). Or having AI (Artificial Intelligence) sift through mountains of user data to extrapolate behavioral and other patterns, without consent.
Not so long ago, Google made a big announcement of systems unification (and before that, opening up mailboxes for search) which raised a lot of red flags. It makes sense to them because it will enable their services to share user data. Not a great news for users, who will end up like a cadaver in a river being devoured by piranhas.
Then there's the demise of Net Neutrality. There's a reason why corporations want it dead. So they can charge people more to access data. Streaming is popular now, and so with high resolution multimedia, and this means your personal documents and files will become much larger. So what? You'll pay more to access data you already own. Not to mention, data bandwidth premiums paid by streaming companies will be passed on to the… you guessed it… consumers, that is you.
Common Sense and Due Diligence
Just the idea of handing over personal information to a private company should make people uneasy. There is no oversight in the cloud storage service industry. It's pretty much unregulated. Only recently the EU has enacted laws concerning user data (as a result of the Facebook scandal), but it's not comprehensive enough nor is it binding worldwide, nor does it offer protections to everyone connected.
If you're not concerned about your personal data (from health records, financial records, legal documents, to family photos. I'm not just talking about school papers no one wants to read. Listen, almost everything is electronic now, even utility bills!) being passed around like a free meal, then this shouldn't concern you.
What are we supposed to do then? Storage is cheap and getting cheaper. Soon a 1 terabyte micro USB will be available, which is a hefty storage. I for one use 7 terabytes of personal electronic data dating back to 1990. With today’s storage technology, you can store all your life's worth of documents in a data storage smaller than your thumbnail. Make duplicates for backup and keep it in a safe box deposit or somewhere off-site.
When it comes to privacy, our first line of defense is us and our habits. Keep your personal files offline, and only share on the web what is needed. If you have email accounts, sync it to your home computer so you'll get a local copy… and backup that local mailbox. Limit the dispersal of your files, and only to trustworthy companies – this also goes with limiting how many social media accounts you maintain, unless you can keep up with all of them. If you're transmitting documents to the government, like filing income tax, that's fine, because there are check and balances, oversight and accountability. And if you must share files elsewhere online, make sure it's data or files that you can afford to lose.
Storage is cheap. That’s why it doesn’t make any sense to pay $10 each month! With offline storage, you have control over your digital assets. And when you travel or when connectivity is limited, your data is readily accessible If you’re concerned about data security with your offline storage, encrypt it! The technology is likely built-in to your device, and it’s already paid for. These aren't rocket science, it's simply common sense.
(TIME) — Flickr is about to delete tons of photos. Here’s how to save yours before they’re gone.
Flickr users have until Feb. 5 to save any photos over the company's 1,000-image limit. The photo site is reducing its storage free capacity.
Flickr announced in November it would be changing its generous photo storage allotment for free users, restricting them to a 1,000-photo limit, and threatening to delete excess photos unless you upgrade to a paid account by Tuesday, Feb. 5.