This topic has been bothering me for a while actually. In the last couple of years we have seen a wave of so called “social networking” sites. Those are sites such as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
What these sites are supposed to bring you is a sense of being closer connected to your friends, family and peers. Noone can argue that this goal has not been reached, but i keep asking myself, at what cost?
I myself, use all of the above except MySpace. I have friends and family in all of them. In all of them there are small pieces of information, that when looked at from above, will basically map out my entire life. When thinking this through, my entire life history on what schools i have attended, what my lifestyle is like, what i like to eat, where i like to go on vacation, what movies i like to watch, is all mapped out electronically.
An outsider being presented with this information in a condensed form, will have all the information nessecary to make certain assumptions about me. They can then use those assumptions for whatever good or evil they have in mind. Now that is total control!
An argument against this type of paranoia is often presented in the form of: “It will be too hard to gather all that information” or “they wont do that” or “my life is not interesting enough for that”.
The “too hard” part is easily debunked. Any programmer I know have the ability to create search functions that can go across sites, look into their databases, and basically create a web of people, associating whatever they want with those people, like creating a top 10 list of whether they prefer their steak medium or rare. This wont even take them very long to do. Its technically not very hard to do these days.
The next one is “they wont do that”. Why wouldnt they? If a marketing agency of a travel-corporation had a bigh enough of a budget, they would be able to pursuade some of these social networking sites, to give up information on what locations around the world are the most prefered. A direct marketing campaign could then be addressed to these folks, based on already implementented function on these social networking sites, or even directly to these folks, through email or even physical snail mail. The privacy agreements on these sites is a joke to most privacy lawyers (ianal).
Some say their life is not interesting enough. Well, if you are living in the 21st century and you are a consumer of any sort, then your life is interesting to someone out there. If its monetarily feasible to figure out what you are into (and it is based on the easy nature of data mining this information), then you are a potential “buyer”.
So why do we do it?
Instinct. Its in our very nature to be social creatures in some form or another. We want to be able to know what we are doing, and to participate in it in any way we can. Even if this means giving up some (alot!) of our privacy. It all comes down to a choice: Live socially or live privately. But this decision is not one that most people have consioucly made. The choice has been pure instinct.
Do I like social networking sites? Yes… Do I like the data-mining? No! no-one does. What im urging is for you to make the choice with your reasonable-brain instead of your animal instinct.
Sorry for the rant, but I just dont like for any single entitiy to be able to obtain a print-out of my entire life!
See you on twitter?