Sharing your personal information with the founders of FaceBook, MySpace, Pinterest, Friendster, Twitter and LinkedIn is probably something you would think about twice. The association of your private stuff with each of these networks is something you want to take very seriously.
There is an interesting tension between social networks and the concept of Privacy. Not only because some people will share what others will want to keep a secret; also because the social networks love to know more about you and continuously challenge your boundaries.
Let’s face it (pun intended) – the more you share, the more traffic you generate, the more money they make. It is that simple. So when social networks need to ‘take their responsibility’, they are acting against their nature (remember the story of the scorpion that wanted to cross the river?).
“If you are not paying for a product, you are the product being sold”
This tension between your privacy and their business model is described in detail in a recent whitepaper by the Atos Scientific Community (find it here) and they conclude:
“Social networking sites have been traditionally reluctant to take into consideration the data privacy concerns brought up by users and public authorities.”
The paper continues to look into the legal aspects of this subject and describes how we are dealing with the challenge of privacy in social networks. Several examples are cited and explained against the existing rules in Europe and the US.
In addition the paper goes beyond the legal aspects and also explores the technical aspects of privacy in social networks. Most interesting is their observation that there is not a single technology that will support the need for privacy:
“Privacy needs, inside and outside social networks, are quite different and should be tackled using specifically tailored technologies.”
You can imagine that privacy related to personal finance, banking information or on the other hand your holiday pictures are totally different datasets that need a different approach. The whitepaper shows this and explains how a difference can be made; it even explores the possibility of a ‘safe’ social network.
A full analysis is done of several technologies that can support a safer social network and allow for better control by the end-user. Also a word of caution is expressed by the authors on the possibilities of cross authorizing using for example your Facebook account log in on other sites.
Finally the observation is that the social networking domain, in which vendors and end-users struggle to get a grip on privacy, is in fact not ignoring the issue. So there is hope – but that does not change the fact you still need to think twice before you hit ‘Like’.
This blog post is a repost of http://blog.atos.net/sc/2012/10/08/watch-this-space-choose-your-friends-wisely/