"As Eric said in his 2009 strategy memo, "we don't trap users, we make it easy for them to move to our competitors." This policy is sort of like the emergency exits on an airplane — an analogy that our pilot CEO would appreciate. You hope to never use them, but you're glad they're there and would be furious if they weren't.
That's why we have a team — the Data Liberation Front (dataliberation.org) — whose job it is to make "checking out" easy. Recent examples of their work include Blogger (people who choose to leave Blogger for another service can easily take their content with them) and Docs (users can now collect all their documents, presos, and spreadsheets in a zip file and download it). Build your products so that the Data Liberation team can work their magic. One way you can do this is by having a good public API that exposes all your users' data. Don't wait for v2 or v3, discuss this early in your product planning meetings and make it a feature of your product from the start."
This will be a critical issue for years and decades to come. As cloud computing becomes more and more ubiquitous these types of issues will be critical. The best white on cloud computing, that brings this issue out, is UCB's "Above The Clouds".
Scott McNealy first brought this concept out prior to Google's existence back in the early 1990s when Scott coined the term "TCE Total Cost to Exit". TCE is about the ability to move/migrate both software and the data to other hardware and software vendors.
Scott also stated that consumer privacy issues are a "red herring." Scott also said "You have zero privacy anyway, get over it."
The challenge will be the balance between privacy and the benefits of sharing information, but the killer issue in all of this is that there is no MASTER DELETE on the Internet. Wrong information exists and spreads forever on the Internet. When it comes to negative information on an individual that is incorrect, this is obviously a serious issue. It will be interesting to watch how Google addresses these very tough issues that Jonathan Rosenberg brought out in his recent, excellent blog entry in the upcoming years.