Entering the Digital Fast Lane with Portable Social Graphs

Facebook Connect and Google Friend Connect today fully opened up their rival data portability initiatives. What does this mean for you? Now, you can log in to partnering sites using either your Facebook or Google account, and bring with you your “social graph”:† the network of folks you’re already connected with to share in the website’s experience. Here’s are some thoughts from Shiv Singh and colleagues over at Razorfish about how implementations of the portable social graph might look:

On the one hand, this service feels like a tremendous win for convenience: a digital E-Z Pass,† obviating the need for creating and managing myriad accounts and passwords across the web. But the convenience may come with a cost. Any time a large company offers to manage your data across multiple purchase points and interactions, the question arises of what that aggregated data about behaviors and relationships might be used for. The E-ZPass analogy holds true: the same guy who signed up for an electronic pass to avoid long lines at tolls might not want those travel records showing up in divorce court.
Privacy concerns aside, it’s too early to tell what portable social graph interactions will ultimately look like. In the 90s, the beginnings of e-commerce made most of us envision bringing bricks-and-mortar stores online, not predict the resurgence of handmade goods on Etsy or the crowdsourcing of designs on Threadless. Similarly, it’s hard to imagine today which new practicesóand entirely new businessesówill emerge as the portable social graph becomes a reality.

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