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Google upgrades FriendConnect feature

New 'social bar' improves data portability

FriendConnect, the Google service that lets web publishers add social networking features to their websites, has gained a new feature that aggregates basic social media functions in a toolbar that can be added to web pages.

The 'social bar', as Google calls it, puts functions like logging in, editing profiles and settings, activity streams display and discussion wall postings into a strip that can be placed at the top or bottom of web pages, Google said. People can expand the view of each function by clicking on it.

FriendConnect is Google's offering for data portability, which allows people to control the information and content they enter at social networking sites and social media-sharing sections of websites, so that they don't have to manually update multiple accounts.

For example, one idea of data portability calls for people to have an online dashboard of their social information and content - friends lists, photos, video clips, blog items - that would be independent from any individual site. From there, people can control what information and content they post where, avoiding data lock-in.

Although data portability has gained popularity among users and internet companies, it has proven technically complicated to implement as well as controversial, because it brings up questions about users' data privacy and protection.

In a prime example of the complexities of bringing broad data portability into reality, Facebook blocked FriendConnect's access to its site in May, saying the Google service violated its terms of service by redistributing the data of Facebook members "in a way users might not expect or understand".

Facebook has its own data portability system, called Connect. MySpace also has one, called MySpaceID.

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