Choose your friends wisely

Sharing your personal information with the founders of FaceBook, MySpacePinterest, Friendster, Twitter and LinkedIn is probably something you would think about twice. The association of your private stuff with each of these networks is something you want to take very seriously.

There is an interesting tension between social networks and the concept of Privacy. Not only because some people will share what others will want to keep a secret; also because the social networks love to know more about you and continuously challenge your boundaries.

Let’s face it (pun intended) – the more you share, the more traffic you generate, the more money they make. It is that simple. So when social networks need to ‘take their responsibility’, they are acting against their nature (remember the story of the scorpion that wanted to cross the river?).

“If you are not paying for a product, you are the product being sold”

This tension between your privacy and their business model is described in detail in a recent whitepaper by the Atos Scientific Community (find it here) and they conclude:

“Social networking sites have been traditionally reluctant to take into consideration the data privacy concerns brought up by users and public authorities.”

The paper continues to look into the legal aspects of this subject and describes how we are dealing with the challenge of privacy in social networks. Several examples are cited and explained against the existing rules in Europe and the US.

In addition the paper goes beyond the legal aspects and also explores the technical aspects of privacy in social networks. Most interesting is their observation that there is not a single technology that will support the need for privacy:

“Privacy needs, inside and outside social networks, are quite different and should be tackled using specifically tailored technologies.”

You can imagine that privacy related to personal finance, banking information or on the other hand your holiday pictures are totally different datasets that need a different approach. The whitepaper shows this and explains how a difference can be made; it even explores the possibility of a ‘safe’ social network.

A full analysis is done of several technologies that can support a safer social network and allow for better control by the end-user. Also a word of caution is expressed by the authors on the possibilities of cross authorizing using for example your Facebook account log in on other sites.

Finally the observation is that the social networking domain, in which vendors and end-users struggle to get a grip on privacy, is in fact not ignoring the issue. So there is hope – but that does not change the fact you still need to think twice before you hit ‘Like’.

This blog post is a repost of 

What Facebook forgot to mention in their announcement today (I told you so…)

The Facebook Man. Facebook is celebrating its ...

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I have just read this on the The Microsoft Office Blog by Office VP Takeshi Numoto:

Facebook‘s new messaging platform integrates the Office Web Apps to enable Facebook users to view Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents with just one click. As you know, Office helps you create stunning documents that bring your ideas to life. Now you can easily share those ideas with your friends and family on Facebook.  I’m really excited about being able to make it even easier for people to use Office to access and share information across different devices, networks and platforms. With the Office Web Apps on Facebook, you have even more ways to express yourself with Office and easily share your thoughts with people that are important to you.

When you receive a Word, Excel, or PowerPoint document attachment in your Facebook message, click "View on" to view it in the browser in high fidelity via Office Web Apps or click "Download" to download the file to your computer (where you can open it in Office on your computer).”

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Facebook Statement: “It is not Email”

In my post yesterday I suggested that Facebook may add email to their services. Today Mashable confirms “It is not email”. Messages3

Apparently this Facebook messaging system will be a more seamless, chat-like experience with a ‘social’ inbox. This would mean that the inbox will reflect the relationship you have with a sender or recipient of the email (I got that part right).

The system will run on multiple platforms, including phones.

I certainly hope it is not like Google Wave.

All is explained in this blog post from Facebook’s Joe Seligstein.

What I noticed:

  1. It is like a unified messaging system because it creates threads of conversations, indifferent if the messaging was done by text, email of Facebook writings.
  2. It will come with a ‘’ email alias.
  3. There is a reference to voice in the blog: “Relatively soon, we’ll probably all stop using arbitrary ten digit numbers and bizarre sequences of characters to contact each other.”
  4. They make a good point that the system should find out what the best way is to get a message to a person. Some may prefer email, others may prefer texting. By just entering the message, the system should figure out the delivery method.
  5. They make a point of not needing subject lines – messages are sorted by the people they got send to.

There is a good video explanation on the blog entry by Joe.

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Is the web better with friends?

A segment of a social network

Image via Wikipedia

On the Facebook webpage about Instant Personalization it says:

“See your friends’ reviews first when you search for a movie to watch.
Hear your favorite songs automatically when you visit a music site.
Experience a Web tailored to you and your friends.”

This statement has an important verb associated to it: “Search”.

On October 13, 2010, Facebook announced a partnership with Bing, allowing Bing to research the biggest social network in the world when you search the web.

This collaboration enhances the search experience of Bing because you not only can find the information you are looking for, you also can see how your social network rates the things you are searching for. The very important Facebook “Like”-button aggregates all this information.

When you search for a restaurant, it will show you if you have friends in your network that “liked” that restaurant, but because the web has a digital reference to almost anything, this scenario also plays when you are looking for a book, a computer, a travel destination and even your neighbor.

So lets shift our viewpoint here: how do you make money with search? Through advertisement right? Google knows this; they also know you make more money with targeted advertisements. The more you know about a person, the more money you can make.

Who do you think knows more about you? Facebook or Google? Of course Google may know about your searching habits, but how much info about your personal life is in your Facebook pages?

You may argue that you only publish public info on your Facebook pages and that is probably true (you are a responsible and good net-citizen). But what about your 500 or more friends. What they share with or about you is now also searchable by Bing.

It is like a big game of trust. I trust my ‘friends’, I trust Bing and because of that I trust Bing to trust my ‘friends’; or better still I trust my ‘friends’ to trust Bing (Facebook offers an opt-out possibility, but can you find it in the settings?).

So, is this bad? Not if you want to trade some privacy to get a good search experience. But it is bad if someone in your friend network starts misbehaving – do you really want a friend that starts pressing every ‘like’ button he or she can find on a lot of very questionable sites or forums? You may be on holiday while somebody starts posting very strange texts on your wall. If it becomes searchable throughout your whole social network it may be something you do not ‘like’ (pun intended).

On the aspect of Facebook only containing your public information, I want to make another point; according to TechCrunch, we can expect Facebook to announce on Monday, October 15, 2010, their next step: Facebook Email.

Facebook email will make a lot of sense; because Facebook knows who and what is going on in your network it can help prioritize your email. You can also very easily integrate the contact data – that is probably why Facebook and Google had a fight over importing contacts from one to another last week. It is a natural extension to the wall postings and your email probably contains information that can then be of interest to any targeted advertising.

This may all be seen as paranoia and some of it probably is. After all if we want technology to work for us, we need to provide it with information it can work with. I would however very much ‘like’ it, when these companies gave us some kind of overview what type of connections and level of privacy access I have created. Some openness on my social profile would help me understand the impact of my actions.

Two thoughts to leave you with:

  • It would be fun if Facebook based its email on Microsoft technology (including the online Office components) – this would ready create a headache for Google.
  • To worsen your conspiracy feelings: would you connect your XBOX Kinect to your Facebook account?


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