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IBM wants my phone data. I'll happily give it more

There's a gold mine sitting in our e-mail in-boxes and phone records, if we'll just open up the information and share it.

Over the weekend news broke that IBM Research has been working with personal mobile phone records to map social networks. Some may complain that Big Brother is watching, but the real question is why some company hasn't formed already to blend mobile data with IM and e-mail traffic to map and profit from the social graph.


Think about it. My in-box already knows where I'm traveling, what I buy, etc. because my receipts go there. If someone were to merge this data with my phone records (easily had for the price of my AT&T login credentials), my e-mail log, and my Twitter, IM, and social network data, they'd know exactly who I know and where I'm likely to bump into them.

I'd gladly give up this data to facilitate those interactions.

Privacy wonks will bewail this apparent lack of concern for the sanctity of my data. But they'd be wrong.

It's not that I deprecate the value of my security. It's just that I value more the possibilities that arise when I share this data with a network of friends--sharing really only makes sense through a company or community that networks my address book with those of others I like and trust.

I can't fathom why someone hasn't done this yet. Tim O'Reilly has been talking about this Address Book 2.0 concept for years, and I've written on it several times, too. (See here and here.)

All the necessary data is sitting in my in-box or through easily accessed online or desktop applications. Someone simply needs to combine and process it.

Maybe that "someone," as Tim O'Reilly has suggested, could be the open-source community. We wouldn't want a community to shepherd the data, but to build the data connectors to a centralized service? Sure.

It needs to happen. I'd love to automatically be told that my good friend Mike is in London at the same time as I am, and have a service suggest a reservation at a favorite restaurant (which it would know through my past OpenTable reservations). I'd "pay" for that by giving up a lot of data.

I'm guessing you would, too. So who's going to build it?

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.