Data Portability, Privacy, and Ownership are three completely separate things that are nevertheless intimately related. Regarding data portability, if you are away from home and suddenly the local doctor needs to access your medical records, wouldn’t you want them to be able to do that quickly and securely? Unfortunately, without data portability, he may very well be able to get the data – but not be able to use it because it is in a format his systems are unfamiliar with.
The concept of single sign-on (OpenID, Facebook Connect, etc.) is a great example of Data Portability, though it only scratches the surface in terms of overall usefulness. Nevertheless, single sign-on allows information to “talk” to other systems in ways that are defined by concepts rooted in data portability.
People should be scared of unbridled access to information without constraints, accountability, and security. But, data portability is not something to be afraid of. It is an empowerment that operates transparently and provides options without limiting choices. And, with any luck it will be a core component of data solutions that puts a smile on everyone’s face.