/ In Terms of Privacy, Not All Social Networks are Created Equally (and Why It Should Matter)

I was part of the group that had objections to the #domosocial experiment on the grounds of privacy. My desire to not use certain social networks was less about a lack of exposure to them, and more about my own beliefs that I should not hand over data to an organization that uses my data as a commodity.

Many of these companies don’t seem to have the greatest track record of privacy. A look at Apple’s privacy policy shows that Siri commands and user data are saved in their databases and can be shared with “Apple partners who are providing related services to Apple.” Google settled with the FTC over violating user privacy when it rolled out Google Buzz. In November, Facebook also settled with the FTC regarding a series of complaints that included allowing third party apps access to data they did not need to operate, changes in policies that made previously private data public, and sharing personal information with advertisers. What these examples tell us is that technology is outpacing our knowledge, legislation, and ethics. Government involvement in privacy has mostly been reactionary here in the United States. The Internet is the new Wild West and it’s lack of strong regulation has led to a ton of innovative companies that are providing great services.

We would do well to remember the idiom, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” When Google offers you a free phone number, or Facebook introduces the timeline, users will benefit by remembering that somewhere these companies need to recoup their costs. Quite often, the currency will be your data.

The problem can extend beyond simply how companies share your data with others. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers said 66% of its respondents cited Facebook as the primary source for compromising information. Over one third of employers surveyed by Career Builder stated that they use social networks to research candidates. Quite often our public data is perceived as private.

This is why Twitter tends to be my social network of choice. Any tweet from my friends or me has an inherit expectation that it will be public. I’m not going to use Twitter to criticize my boss (not that I ever would Mike) or to brag about how I called in sick and instead went golfing. Also, Twitter hasn’t gone evil yet and still seems to care a lot about the end users, even as far as to challenge subpoenas on behalf of their users.

For the sake of the experiment, I signed up for these services. I did so under fake email addresses using fake information. Many of these services I had tried out in the past already. In all honesty, I can’t say much has changed. I think I will maintain being a Twitter user and remain cautious over other networks.



  1. http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/11/ftc-slaps-facebook-privacy/
  2. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1334482/The-marriage-killer-One-American-divorces-involve-Facebook.html
  3. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/thirty-seven-percent-of-companies-use-social-networks-to-research-potential-job-candidates-according-to-new-careerbuilder-survey-147885445.html
  4. http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2404132,00.asp


Tags: data

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