Give Me My Data upgrade: New API, authorization, and data formats

No one would be surprised to learn that almost all of the user-generated content websites use our personal data to sell advertisements. In fact 97% of Google’s revenue comes from advertising.[1] That’s why it’s important these sites provide as much access as possible to the real owners of our data‐us. After all, we put it there and allow them to use it in exchange for the use of their software. Seems like a fair trade if you ask me.

A year and a half ago Facebook didn’t provide any access. That’s why I created Give Me My Data, to help users reclaim and reuse their personal data they put on Facebook.

By giving more agency to users of online systems, Give Me My Data may have already impacted the nature of online application development. In November 2010, almost a year after I launched Give Me My Data, Facebook created their own service for users to export their profile from Facebook as a series of HTML pages. Unlike Give Me My Data, the Facebook service doesn’t allow you to select which data you want or to choose custom formats to export. It also doesn’t give you options for visualization like the custom network graphs that Give Me My Data offers.

I believe their motivation originates in part with my application, likely due to the popularity of Give Me My Data, and points to the potential usefulness of similar apps. While years down the road may reveal many other online systems giving users control over their data, I see this as a positive effect where the content we create, as well as the means to share and manage it, are democratized.

Meanwhile, the above also keeps me hard at work developing the Give Me My Data project. This week I rewrote the program to use Facebook’s new OAuth authorization, which also required rewriting all of the code that fetches the data. Previously it used the REST API which is being deprecated (sometime?) in the future. I also added new data types, fixed the CSV format (which had the rows and columns mixed-up), and added the possibility to export in the JSON data format.

Finally, in the data selector, I distinguished standard data and customized data types. When I say customized, I mean that I’ve written code that mashes together more than one data table and/or addresses a specific question. For example, right now users can select from two types of network graphs and corresponding formats. One describes the user’s relationship to their friends, and the other describes the user’s relationship to their friends, as well as all their friends’ relationships to each other in various graph description languages. This is how I made the network graph image below. I’m also interested in hearing other suggestions for custom queries I might add. The project will be open source on Github soon, so even code contributions will be welcome.

Anyway, please try out the new version. You may have to delete the app from your allowed applications and then re-authorize it if you’ve used it before. As usual, you can provide feedback on the application page, and you can also contact me on Twitter via @givememydata.

[1] “Google Financial Tables for Quarter ending June 30, 2009” Retrieved October 13, 2010

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