Technology and Business Law Blog

Social Networking’s End?

Social networking is one of the most popular market segments in terms of business and even from a consumer perspective. Almost everyday a new social networking site seems to pop up somewhere in the world and I receive requests on a regular basis to join one or the other and so what do I do — I don’t join any of them. I am worried about scattering my personal information all over the cyberspace and having it infiltrate and stored in places and in hands of people I wouldn’t it to be in.

Another reason is that once you are a member of all these various sites then it is hard to remember all the different passwords and logins and what information I gave out where. Third, but most important is that I am sheer lazy.

The popularity of social networking has a direct impact on the loss of privacy and in the U.S. the most popular sites are Facebook and MySpace and both of them allow  third party developers to set up different applications like playing poker, getting daily horoscopes and sending one another virtual cocktails and according to this article in Washington Post

But it is often difficult to tell when developers are breaking the rules by, for example, storing members’ data for more than 24 hours, said Adrienne Felt, who recently studied Facebook security at the University of Virginia.

She examined 150 of the most popular Facebook applications to find out how much data could be gathered. Her research, which was presented at a privacy conference last month, found that about 90 percent of the applications have unnecessary access to private data.

If developers and others whom the Facebook user does not know and did not intend to give out their information gets hold of it, there is no saying what the information is being used for.

I get a feeling that once this euphoria of online social networking cools down in about 5-7 years especially when people see that their private information has been misused one way or the other and it has an affects on their lives then people will revert back to good old fashioned getting to know one another on  a personal basis networking.


June 12, 2008 Posted by | Facebook, privacy, Social networking | , , , | 1 Comment

Targeted Advertising on the Internet

-The biggest gripe against social networking sites is invasion of privacy. Even as these social networking companies tout that they will not share the users personal information with others and has statements of respecting privacy on their websites we all know that it is not completely adhered to. Every time we shop or pay bills on-line our personal information is being disseminated a little bit more, it is a slow unnoticeable leak which spreads around without causing waves. The other day I was shopping at the Disney store and the cashier asked me for my home phone number and my zip code and like most people I in an auto reflex and preprogrammed manner gave it to her, and after about half an hour I went back to the same store and bought another toy for my child and the cashier once again asked the same questions “what is your home phone number?” and your “zip code please” and I told her I just gave that information a little while ago and she replied we have to get that every time you buy sometime, and when I told her I did not want to give my home phone number she got a bit cold and unfriendly.

For some reason when we go outside the house and in a commercial setting or when we fill out forms for various reasons we just automatically fill in all the information that is asked for in the various headings starting from out date of birth to social security number without thinking or asking why is this being asked and is it a requirement or what if I don’t give all this information being asked.

It is all over the news about how Facebook is expanding its business through targeting advertising by sharing the users online purchases with the user’s “friends” without really giving opt out options and by displaying private purchases made on the Facebook News Feeds. Now I don’t want my friends to know where and what under clothes or hygiene products I shop for or use and definitely don’t want it being shared automatically with the other users on Facebook without my permission.

Also when we use or search for something on the Internet using search engines like Yahoo or Google we are being tracked and even if this information is not being shared openly with the world our online movements are totally exposed and the only alternative is not to use the Internet. Now is that possible in today’s wired world where all that we need even to conduct our day to day business is connected to the Internet?

The European Union has a balanced approach to these issues and has placed a time limit on search engines retaining the web search information. The EU also has greater restrictions on divulging information and has stricter privacy policies. Since Facebook’s advertising program delivers ads based on user interests and those of their friends, so it may be a target for future EU crack down. Read Article here.

November 26, 2007 Posted by | EU, Facebook, privacy, Targeted advertising | 1 Comment

Facebook’s Ad Platform

Privacy issues are the most common topics of concern and discussion in the online world. The latest of-course is Facebook pushing the envelope with its plans of allowing businesses to target ads to users of the site. Facebook has a built in captive audience of thousands of people ranging from teens to senior citizens now that the site is open to all ages, so companies have access to this ready made eye balls and it is an irresistible chance to market their products.

Major companies like Coco-Cola, CBS Corp etc have signed up for the Facebook ad paltform. According to Facebook’s CEO Zukerberg, companies can advertise on their own profile page on Facebook as well as spread messages “virally” by linking ads to recommendations or newsfeeds members send to each other. Facebook further said that when people visit companies website to buy things or write names that information will be spread to their friends at the website.

Facebook is using the users of the site to market products of other companies and make money in the process without any of the profit making its way into the users pocket. The company will be leveraging the network created by its users for a totally different purpose of social interaction to a large extent based on trust, so it is a powerful marketing strategy without the companies having to spend tons of dollars like they do in traditional marketing.

The problem now is that  these outside companies will target the audience based on the personal information provided by Facebook to these outside companies about the particular Facebook user without the site users permission and this raises issues of privacy and the legality of it. The new advertising system will target ads based on personal information shared by users with their friends. This methodology is invading privacy for commercial purposes of Facebook and the site users whose information Facebook already has collected over the years is being compiled and sold without the site users consent. It also reeks of unethical practices since when these users joined Facebook they  were not told or given the chance to opt out and state that their personal information like interests, relationship status, work history etc should not be used.

November 10, 2007 Posted by | Facebook, privacy, Unethical conduct | Leave a comment

Other Uses of Social Networking Sites

In my earlier post titled “Mom and Son Unite because of Facebook” I had written about a women who was able to locate her son after 20 years because she had found him on Facebook and that was a real touching and dramatic story. Facebook and other social networking sites are so popular that they are overtaking over lives, to stay anonymous a person has to deliberately not be part of any of these sites.

In this story a victim who was attacked searched a Facebook profile and identified his attacker whom the police investigated, created a photo spread of possible suspects and narrowed it down to the attacker and arrested him. Now if you are going to attack, assault, or engage in some unlawful act please don’t have your profile with a picture out there in the web.

September 28, 2007 Posted by | Facebook, Victim identification | 3 Comments

Latest on Apple and Facebook

The latest buzz in the technology front has been about Apple announcing in San Francisco on Wednesday about the new revamped iPod called iPod Touch which has features similar to the iPhone such as multimedia interface, built in Wi-Fi and the Safari Internet browser. Also the iPod Touch can play YouTube videos. So the iPod Touch can do everything the iPhone can do except make or receive phone calls. Apple has also entered into an venture with Starbucks, so that an iPod user can download any song playing at a Starbucks store into their iPods.

The next announcement by Steve Jobs was slashing of the price of the iPhone by $200.00 barely 10 weeks since it has been launched with a lot of hype. Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris said anyone who purchased an iPhone within the past 14 days and has the receipt can get a full refund under Apple’s return policy if they haven’t opened the product. If they have opened it, they still can get a refund of the price difference.

Now do we still remember the long lines in front of stores the first few days to get the phone and the people who bought it felt that it was so worth it and it was the coolest thing man has created. Well, they probably don’t feel so cool now and in fact will be feeling a bit stupid. It all goes with the territory.

The next buzz is about Facebook launching a public listing search by which even a person who is not a member of the Facebook network can look up someone who is part of the Facebook network. Till now Facebook network has been between people who trust each other and the information put out in the network remains there with the primary focus being privacy. Now the information that is available on anyone to a person not logged into Facebook is less than if they were a member. This is similar to LinkedIn, a popular networking tool used by professionals.

The social networking arena is going crazy with more and more of such sites popping up everyday eroding the illusion of privacy. Surely in a few years it is all going to be one big huge world family or will it be one huge world phone book except with more information available than mere phone numbers? Now one has a choice of not joining any of these social networks and live like the good old days.

September 6, 2007 Posted by | Facebook, iPhone, iPod Touch, privacy, Social networking | Leave a comment

Mom and Son unite because of Facebook!!

There has been so much negative news about social networking sites and privacy issues but here is an amazing story about a mother and son locating each other after 20 years because of Facebook. It is such a wonderful happening. I will not spoil the joy of reading it yourself. Here we go…

August 3, 2007 Posted by | Facebook, privacy | 1 Comment