Auren Hoffman's cynical ploy to set your profile "free"

Rapleaf is bragging that founder Auren Hoffman is an early signer of the Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web. That blustering broadside, authored by Plaxo's Joseph Smarr, Macromedia founder Marc Canter, videoblogger Robert Scoble, and TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington, wants to set your online profiles and friends lists, trapped on sites like Facebook, free. The central tenet of the Bill? That individual users retain "ownership of their own personal information" and that users have the "freedom to grant persistent access to their personal information to trusted external sites." Which could come in handy as people begin to question Rapleaf's scraping of profile data from social networks — data these networks claim to own and have exclusive rights to.

Hoffman, of course, is being perfectly cycnical in claiming he's trying to protect users' interests, rather than profiting from them. Of course, it's not clear whether or not this Bill of Rights would allow Rapleaf's TrustFuse to profit from selling that individually-owned data. But that's the beauty of such lofty, high-minded Web manifestos: They count for nothing but the appearance of good intentions.