Update 18 April 2012
in an interview with the Guardian, Tim Berners-Lee, the Father of the World Wide Web, asks to demand your data from Google and Facebook. We agree with him that ‘personal data held online could be used to usher in new era of personalised services’.
En Francais par Internet Sans Frontieres: Réclamez Vos Données Personnelles À Google Et Facebook dit Tim Berners-Lee
Online companies appear to eventually disappear with the same speed. After all, the main specificity of the internet world is the new scale, the speed of publication, broadcast etc… as well as the scale of the public reached.
If it is true that for the sake of your data, you should ask a copy for backup, it is also to know how much information is out there about you or your family. Sparse data collected and assembled give a whole other meaning to your online image. Think also about possible confusion of identities.
In another hand, the case of this Police officer anonymously blogging about his work, commented by David Allen Green, is a good illustration of how easily data can be accessed to reveal the real person hiding behind anonymity.
Read here: The Times and NightJack: an anatomy of a failure
The public interest exception opposed by the Times journalist to justify the unauthorised access to the officer’s email account is a false excuse in my view. This is serious breach of the Computer Misuse Act 1990 that should be well known by any journalist. I cannot see any ‘public interest’ to unmask the real identity of NightJack who had been actually serving the public interest by anonymously revealing information about his investigations. The direct result of such misbehavior is a chilling effect on the freedom of speech.