Chapter 5. Preserving User Data

Now that we’ve put a lot of effort into securing and ensuring the privacy of our users’ data, we should also consider our users’ ownership of and access to their data. As users pour their personal and professional lives into the applications we build, the data created can become a reflection of their lives. Our applications may store photos, documents, journals, notes, private reflections, user locations, food preferences, family relationships, meeting information, and connections between all of these things. While this information can be incredibly powerful to us in continuing to build and improve our applications, our users also have a personal investment in the data they have created and shared with us. As developers, we should respect the implicit trust that our users place in the access to and ongoing preservation of their data.

In 2009 the site GeoCities was shuttered. GeoCities was a free web-hosting platform that was considered an important piece of early web history. Though Yahoo!, which had acquired GeoCities in 1999, provided guidance to users for how to preserve their sites elsewhere, many of the sites were no longer actively maintained, so they risked being lost forever. In light of this, several projects such as the Internet ArchiveArchive TeamReoCities, and OoCities undertook Herculean efforts to archive or mirror the original GeoCities content.

In 2011 the social check-in service Gowalla announced that it would be shutting down. ...

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