Washington, October 14 (ANI): The owners of online networking sites generally have access to the personal information of the users on their sites, which can lead to privacy problems.
To deal with it Landon Cox, a Duke University assistant professor of computer science, has been funded by the National Science Foundation.
The professor emphasized on the lack of power in the hands netizens who use social networking sites like Facebook to communicate and share data.
He said: "My concern is that they're under the control of a central entity. The social networks currently control all the information that users throw into them. I don't think that's necessarily evil. But it raises some concerns.
"A disgruntled employee could leak information about social network users. They could also become attractive targets for hackers and other computer ne'er-do-wells."
Cox referred to people skipping the site's terms of service, which give the rights to their data way, when they sign up in a particular site
He said: "These rights commonly include a license to display and distribute all content posted by users in any way the provider sees fit,"But now with a three-year grant of 498,000 dollars, part of the federal stimulus package called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), Cox and his two graduate students, Amre Shakimov and Dongtao Liu, will join Ramon Caceres at AT and T Labs in Florham Park, N.J., to develop "peer-to-peer" system architecture in which information is spread out.
Cox said: "What the grant will do is fund research into alternatives for providing social networking services that don't concentrate all this information in a single place.
"The basic idea is that users would control and store their own information and then share it directly with their friends instead of it being mediated through a site like Facebook. And there are some interesting challenges that go along with decomposing something like Facebook into a peer-to-peer system.
"Facebook is a great service because it's highly available and really fast. When you break something into thousands and millions of different pieces instead, you'd want to try to recreate the same availability and performance. That's the research challenge we're going to be looking at over the next three years."
Cox presented three possible options in a report for the Association for Computing Machinery's Workshop for Online Social Networks in Barcelona in August 2009. In each, users would load their personal information into what is called a "Virtual Individual Server," or VIS.
One option would host each social network user's VIS on his or her own desktop. "But the problem with desktop machines is that they go down all the time," Cox said. "When desktops are shut off they are not available."
An alternative project is to distribute VISs within redundant "clouds" of servers such as those offered by the Amazon Elastic Computer Cloud.
Cox added: "Amazon will run little computers on your behalf out in their infrastructure.
"The nice thing about that is the service will never go down. But the problem is that it's very expensive. It costs about $50 a month to have just one server out in the cloud."
A third notion is called "hybrid decentralization," which intends to keep VISs on desktops when possible but switch to the more costly and reliable cloud distribution option when individual desktops go offline. (ANI)