privacy, freedom and the Bill of Rights – social networking

well, facebook is getting into people-search. and that means Facebook Profiles Will Appear on Google Next Month. With a bunch of people-search engines like Spock, Wink etc, it seems obvious that Facebook has entered this. Facebook has always been ahead of the curve, and very clear that it was going to not sell but actually be big on their own. Buying Parakey, and making good decision after good decision in the way Facebook functions like opening up the API and becoming a platform has propelled Facebook to new heights. But one problem might be that Facebook has always been about privacy, and letting you be searched breaks that policy. Of course, Facebook allows you to set your privacy setting so that you cant be searched, but I think allowing searching has a negative impact regardless.

And what is even more scarier is companies like RapLeaf. I read this excellent article by Stefanie Olsen about how your personal data is public. The opening lines of the article are

In the cozy Facebook social network, it’s easy to have a sense of privacy among friends and business acquaintances. But sites like Rapleaf will quickly jar you awake: Everything you say or do on a social network could be fair game to sell to marketer.

Well, with facebook not being so cozy anymore by itself, and RapLeaf prowling around, I think privacy, security and ownership of data are going to be more important to people than having 5000 friends. And of course, freedom. Issues similar to this has led Joseph Smarr, Marc Canter, Robert Scoble, and Michael Arrington to blog about the fundamental rights of people using a social network.

We publicly assert that all users of the social web are entitled to certain fundamental rights, specifically:

  • Ownership of their own personal information, including:
    • their own profile data
    • the list of people they are connected to
    • the activity stream of content they create;
  • Control of whether and how such personal information is shared with others; and
  • Freedom to grant persistent access to their personal information to trusted external sites.

Sites supporting these rights shall:

  • Allow their users to syndicate their own profile data, their friends list, and the data that’s shared with them via the service, using a persistent URL or API token and open data formats;
  • Allow their users to syndicate their own stream of activity outside the site;
  • Allow their users to link from their profile pages to external identifiers in a public way; and
  • Allow their users to discover who else they know is also on their site, using the same external identifiers made available for lookup within the service.

The actual article is available here.

To me, this is kinda a good thing. Coz now there will be networks which are PRIVATE inherently. I do not want to make 5000 friends. I want many micro-networks, with segregation and privacy between them. You might say it is still possible to get it on Facebook, but I disagree. My friends adding a bunch of content about me, tagging photos etc is violation of what I want, and I cant run around and keep track of what my friends are doing about me. Maybe what I want is stupid, and not possible on online social networks or misses the whole point. But I can still want what i want.

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