Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Perils of Social Networking, Pt. 2: Facebook opens up, Quechup stains, fighting Rapleaf's enfolding

It's not just what's going on with Quechup and Rapleaf and old news stories from the NYTimes archives following us around that we have to worry about: tonight Facebook will open up to public search...thus making many of us a bit more antsy about our privacy...

Danny Sullivan though reminds us that the idea of this really isn't new--that when most of us signed up, we were given the option whether or not we wanted to be searched. Sullivan notes, however, that the default used to be that profiles NOT enter searched--and "Today's announcement is probably an heads-up that the default is being changed to on for all Facebook users without actually explicitly saying that." with the default now being that your profile will be in search unless you opt out of search.

I double checked my Facebook profile this morning when the message about the change came up, and opted out of search. It's one thing for employers or others whom I might do business with to find my LinkedIn profile. This morning, I created a custom url for that. But Facebook is my private space. I don't want search there--and not just because I don't want business contacts there. I don't want curious marketers who'd like to spam me, or other (what I would consider)nefarious types finding out about me.

Ross Mayfield also wrote yesterday about some of the perils of social networking...specifically the invasion of privacy aspect on some of these networks that are now offering financial incentives:
If Bob signs up for it, he is opting into the graph, but he doesn't opt in to spamming Sally. Sally is included in the graph, whether she opts in to register or not. Over time, even if Sally resists, she is modeled as a node in the graph.

At first, this doesn't seem to matter. But if Bob adds relationship details like they are dating, and then her husband John opts into the graph and adds the detail they are married, you get the idea. But it is far worse, when the value of the network isn't the relationships, but simply the contact information. This is the case with enterprise social networking, particularly for sales. Many don't realize that Jigsaw actually pays people for submitting business cards of people they have met. Yes, there are financial incentives for people to register you into graphs without your knowledge.

Yesterday, I knew there was something bothering me about all those invites I keep getting for various social networks, and now I know--that in this brave new world where tons of people are looking to mine our information and monetize whatever they can get their hands on, we stand to become nothing more than "contact information" rather than good business connections or friends.

Ross, however, raises the notion of trademarking himself/his identity. Which got me to thinking: if we are to consider our online images as our "personal brand," then perhaps we will have to institute some sort of trademarking in order to protect that "brand" from people who want to exploit it for their own gain.

What a weird, weird world we're creating...

More about online privacy (or lack thereof): Om Malik alsodoesn't like where this is going ...Mike Masnick discusses the Trades Union Congress in the UK recommend that corporations not block employees from using Facebook during work hours--but I'm not sure that encouraging them to use social networking sites in light of the "new" policy at Facebook is such a great thing either...and Mark Glaser writes about some other ways people can find out about you without Facebook (quite disturbing.)

also see: Doc Searls says
FaceBook is unilaterally deciding to expose its members to who-knows-what, in addition to friends looking for friends. Giving members opt-out is lame, retro and and a breach of faith.

What we call “online social networks” mostly are not. They are private walled gardens that exist for reasons that are far more commercial than social. We need to remember that.
Yes, we certainly do need to remember that about this space. No one's going to give us private space out here--well, at least maybe not for free. And then that changes the whole idea of social networking anyway.

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