Reader Pete makes a great point about Google’s Data Liberation Front:
Moves like the Data Liberation Front function are a costly, and therefore credible, signal to users that Google they should be comfortable giving users their [data]. Google’s basically an advertising-broker, and it’s good at what it does insofar as people feel comfortable offering it access to the more intimate aspects of their lives. Speaking personally, the fact that I can get out reasonably easily and costlessly makes me more comfortable with using Google.
Almost more important is that everyone else can do the same – a big enough privacy scare and a lot of people are going to be making use of the DLF. That implicit threat makes Google’s guarantees of user privacy a lot more credible.
This is in contrast to some of Google’s major competitors, who make lock-in a central part of their business strategy. For example, if you invest thousands of dollars developing an iPad app, Apple may unilaterally decide to destroy your investment without warning, explanation, or recourse. Not only does the DLF give users have the freedom to switch to another platform if Google ever pulls a similar stunt, but the existence of the exit option gives Google a strong incentive never to abuse its users’ trust.