Thursday, November 18, 2010 - 14:08

Aro: Social Graph reloaded ... Keeping your data just got a lot harder

Facebook can be a nuisance for those who are not using it. Some of your expert friends are syncing their address books and you're in. Even though you're not really in. But the synced data is not that much of a problem. It's usually my contact handle with some more or less public data. Half of which I am obliged to published on this site anyway. On top of that they might know who I know on fb. Derived from other address book data. But what they - and virtually all other services like fb - don't know is what people communicate that is not running over the platform...which btw. is one reason why fb is going to give you email and sms functionality.

Back to the culprit of the day. Aro. What Aro does is pretty much the same. But they do it platform independent on your mobile. Android first. IPhone later. You get a couple of cheese features to get you hooked and in return all your base are transferred to a server at aro. It's basically combining all of your communication in a single place. So one of the features you get is searching through your entire communication. Not just email. Searching for a contact might pop up an email. But it also might pop up twitter news, an sms or maybe even a chat transcript. It does in fact give you a nice overview of your communication in a single spot. But the latter is exactly the problem. All this could be done locally. You're sync'edâ„¢ anyway. So the data won't be lost. In time of catastrophic failure you could re sync and Aro could get to work again. This is however not how it works. It works remotely. That means your data is going abroad. All of it. It's processed remotely and then you get the bits back you might or might not use...the connections. Personally I wouldn't open up my box with the crown jewels to a company for such a lousy revenue. But I don't need to. It's enough if you do as everything I communicate with you gets processed. As stated this is a nuisance with fb. But now we're talking business as I can't avoid it. To avoid actual data to be processed I'd need to know if the contact is using the service ( which I usually won't ) and need to stop communicating with that contact. The latter might be an excellent excuse if your mother in law is the culprit. Otherwise it's probably a tad impractical.

And I'd bet the service's TOS would push any responsibility to the user who is using the service. I'd be amazed to not find a "Make sure you have proper authorization to share the data" on page 13. Right between the irrelevant and the even more irrelevant. So to get rid of this problem you'd need to sue the living hell out of your contacts. Probably not going to happen.

If they reach a critical mass this is going to be a major problem. If you think fb is the mother of all privacy bombs. This one's going to be the nuke. I could hardly come up with a more intrusive service. Specially since it comes in a rather nice deceptive package.

Kindly assuming for a second that this service will be given to you for free and they won't give away any data it's ridiculous to believe some people won't take it from them. This data will be invaluable and these companies tend to be sloppy with protecting it. Properly protecting data is an expensive, time consuming and restrictive task. It doesn't work well with anything that can be summed up with good user experience. The more users they accumulate the more attractive they will become as a booty. And having the entire communication of a couple of million identifiable users has quite some value.