Web Consortium Wants Linked Open Data

Stephen Yagielowicz
There is a near infinite amount of data floating around cyberspace, that when taken as a whole, develops an in-depth demo- and psychographic profile of individual consumers. For example, tying the purchases you make using your credit or debit card to the titles of the books and magazines you read; the videos you watch; the music you listen to; the places you travel to — the list is never ending in our barcoded, scan-and-swipe world. Add an email address and social network contacts into this data set, and provide it all to today’s perceptive online marketers, and you have a recipe for advertising success.

Better-targeted spam is not the only use of this interrelated Linked Data, however — with some uses being far more beneficial — and others far more malevolent, as criminals, marketers, researchers and governments all seek to meld this disparate data stew into a cohesive look at anyone or anything.

According to LinkedData.org, “Linked Data is about using the Web to connect related data that wasn’t previously linked, or using the Web to lower the barriers to linking data currently linked using other methods.” Wikipedia further defines it as “a term used to describe a recommended best practice for exposing, sharing, and connecting pieces of data, information, and knowledge on the Semantic Web using URIs and RDF.”

While privacy advocates are concerned about the practice’s intrusive social aspects, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) envisions open data architectures for the cloud, where a variety of applications flexibly store and share information. W3C recently hosted its Linked Open Data Camp at the 19th International World Wide Web Conference in Raleigh, N.C., where web creator Tim Berners-Lee discussed the game-changing power of combining data from different sources to provide a clearer picture of an overall issue.

As one example, Berners-Lee cited a class-action lawsuit in Zanesville, Ohio, in which an attorney combined data on housing with data detailing the routing of municipal water lines to prove that black residents were not receiving equal access to these services.

Berners-Lee also cited the U.S. government-created Data.gov website and its U.K.-based sister site, Data.Gov.UK, as examples of innovative dataset collating.

On the private-sector front, Facebook has announced its Open Graph protocol, which allows users to place Facebook elements on to third-party websites — a technology that may be of some interest to Facebook marketers that are promoting adult personalities.