Alex Tabarrok is the less prominent blogger at Marginal Revolution, but I think his post yesterday is great.
He makes the point that much of the data Facebook stores is created by Facebook, or more accurately in my mind by the combination of our activities which are enabled by and only possible through Facebook. As he says, speaking of a cousin in Dubai who he's never called or written a letter in over 20 years: "The relationship with my cousin, therefore, isn’t simply mine, it’s a joint creation of myself, my cousin and Facebook."
I tweeted about the post yesterday, not something I do everyday. I got a response from one person, and we've gone back and forth a bit. Let me summarize my position:
Like Tabarrok, I've a current relationship with a cousin which has been made possible through the Internet, email in the first instance, then shifting to AIM and finally to Facebook Messenger: a sequence of communication tools of better and better capability and more ease of use. I understand that the data stored in the cloud has changed with each tool: now Facebook keeps the full text of our messages. But the capability of the tool is an essential part of the relationship. Given our personalities and ages we didn't and couldn't establish it based on snail mail.
I (and my cousin) are interested in genealogy; she's writing a book (at 87) covering events in 19th century Ireland partly involving two collateral ancestors. For us, all bits of data are precious if they concern the lives of our ancestors, or the lives my cousin investigates. Of course the data is almost all on paper with just a little bit on film. What does the future hold for genealogists; how will they handle all the data which is now being stored and which presumably will be available?