A predictable clash of interests is brewing.
Mark Zuckerberg – programmer and founder of the social networking site Facebook – has taken yet another controversial decision, this time to integrate profile searching, in an effort to drive more traffic from name-based searches across the major search engines.
Although users will be able to exclude their profiles and the facility will be restricted to over 18’s, initially many participants will be concerned for their privacy.
The Public Search Listing of a profile shows the profile picture thumbnail and links to interact with a user on Facebook. People will always have to log in or register to poke, message or add someone as a friend. A user can also restrict what information shows in their public listing by going to the search privacy page.
In parallel the Open Social Web, a consortium of social networking evangelists, have outlined the basis of a Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web – which supports:
- Ownership of their own personal information
- Control of whether and how such personal information is shared with others
- Freedom to grant persistent access to their personal information to trusted external sites
Co-authors, Marc Canter (founder of social networking company Broadband Mechanics) and Joseph Smarr (head tech guy at social networking company Plaxo), have garnered the promotional assistance of Robert Scoble and TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington to help assert this new initiative.
Canter explains the reasoning behind their push:
The document lays out the basic rights that users should demand from any social site they use, with respect to ownership, control, and freedom of movement of their personal information. It also describes four things that sites need to do if they want to be truly supportive of those fundamental rights.
- 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
- 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
Pete Cashmore, over at Mashable, asks if anyone actually cares:
This sounds a lot like talk and no action to me… what difference does it make if anyone agrees to this
IMO I think people care ‘big time’ about their own or group’s privacy and the real question is whether or not the social networking supremoes care enough to protect this fundemental right – which, again IMHO, should be a prerequisite. Facebook’s new Public Search Listings will give me one month to tune my privacy settings before my profile (although we’re promised minimal information) goes public. Clearly if it were a user-centric decision it would have been an opt-in process, not an opt-out one.
Cashmore goes on to suggest that engineering a solution for the portable social network would be a more fruitful debate. I agree that network cross-fertilisation would be a more useful (and private) way of networking with friends and colleagues, than the wrong stuff ending up on Google or Yahoo!