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This article was published on February 20, 2009

Chris Saad on Terms of Service issues: “Clear, jargon-free statements are needed.”

Chris Saad on Terms of Service issues: “Clear, jargon-free statements are needed.”
David Petherick
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David Petherick

Scotsman David Petherick is a director & co-founder of several companies, and provides social media strategy & visibility services. Scotsman David Petherick is a director & co-founder of several companies, and provides social media strategy & visibility services. David became known as ‘The Digital Biographer’ after a 2007 BBC radio interview, speaks Russian, wears the Kilt, and is a co-author for the books 'Age of Conversation 2.0, & 3.0'.

JS-Kit have been in the news recently, with the announcement of a deal with Sun Microsystems to supply JS-Kit comments and other widgets throughout Sun’s properties. Having been slightly underwhelmed by their official press release, I thought I’d catch up with JS-Kit’s Chris Saad in person.

Chris is VP of Product Strategy at JS-Kit, and agreed to answer a few questions about the company’s development, and also some related to Data Portability, and Terms of Service (TOS) related to Data Ownership – obviously a hot topic this week.

Q: You acquired Haloscan in July 08, which of course gave you access to over half a million sites using that service. Have your expectations been met in the last six months, and what new opportunities or synergy do you see as a result of this coming up in the next year or so?

Haloscan was the service that started it all. It was the pioneer! So we are very proud to have been able to acquire it and continue to support its users. Unfortunately though, the platform is getting quite dated and the founder/servers are no longer accessible so we are working hard to upgrade all the users to JS-Kit as smoothly as possible.

Over the next year look for that process to be completed (sooner rather than later) and for both JS-Kit and Haloscan sites to continue to see massive improvements in features, speed, stability and support.

Q: You of course support OpenID in your widgets, and we know Chris Saad as a co-founder of DataPortability. In the context of developments like Facebook Connect and Google Friend Connect, what do you see as the critical factors for any company looking to 1) verify identity and 2) act as a trusted keeper of personal data.

Verifying real world identity is an interesting area of potential innovation. It’s not strictly related to DataPortability though. We have some ideas around this but nothing to announce just yet.

Regarding trusted custodianship of data, we have a new initiative that will be announced next week to make our intentions even clearer than they are today.

We are of course actively participating in the DataPortability project (I am on the Steering group and chair the Communications Taskforce), we have announced our intention to support all appropriate login mechanisms and plan to implement all the recommendations of the DataPortability project – some even before they become fully ratified.

Q: Facebook’s recent climb-down on its Terms of Service (TOS) changes highlights an issue that, with the increasing trend to being able to share and repackage data, will become more important. It may be relatively clear who owns copyright in an image or a recording, but conversations about an image, or added to a thread in a blog, or comments related to a video, are more complex, as they can exist only with the implied or express consent of multiple parties. What do you see as the key factors that surround this issue – and what developments do you think will be critical here in the future?

First, clear, jargon-free statements from publishers and tool vendors will be critical to helping users understand what they can reasonably expect from their social experiences on any given service.

The DataPortability project is working on this problem in its TOS/EULA Taskforce.

There are also all sorts of gray areas when it comes to ownership. If we both contribute to a shared piece of data, who gets to delete it? These are hard questions, but that does not mean we can ignore them. Clear lines can and should be drawn. Some of those lines will be Social Contracts rather than legal or technical ones. The ones we can define in code or terms of service, however, should be defined and placed in the public domain for all to reference and use.

Q: Finally, anything you’d like to blow your trumpet about?

We love our users – their feedback is inspiring. Stay tuned because a heterogeneous social web requires social tools that play well with everyone. This year is the year to start implementing many of the things that were discussed last year.

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