Is the web better with friends?

A segment of a social network

Image via Wikipedia

On the Facebook webpage about Instant Personalization it says:

“See your friends’ reviews first when you search for a movie to watch.
Hear your favorite songs automatically when you visit a music site.
Experience a Web tailored to you and your friends.”

This statement has an important verb associated to it: “Search”.

On October 13, 2010, Facebook announced a partnership with Bing, allowing Bing to research the biggest social network in the world when you search the web.

This collaboration enhances the search experience of Bing because you not only can find the information you are looking for, you also can see how your social network rates the things you are searching for. The very important Facebook “Like”-button aggregates all this information.

When you search for a restaurant, it will show you if you have friends in your network that “liked” that restaurant, but because the web has a digital reference to almost anything, this scenario also plays when you are looking for a book, a computer, a travel destination and even your neighbor.

So lets shift our viewpoint here: how do you make money with search? Through advertisement right? Google knows this; they also know you make more money with targeted advertisements. The more you know about a person, the more money you can make.

Who do you think knows more about you? Facebook or Google? Of course Google may know about your searching habits, but how much info about your personal life is in your Facebook pages?

You may argue that you only publish public info on your Facebook pages and that is probably true (you are a responsible and good net-citizen). But what about your 500 or more friends. What they share with or about you is now also searchable by Bing.

It is like a big game of trust. I trust my ‘friends’, I trust Bing and because of that I trust Bing to trust my ‘friends’; or better still I trust my ‘friends’ to trust Bing (Facebook offers an opt-out possibility, but can you find it in the settings?).

So, is this bad? Not if you want to trade some privacy to get a good search experience. But it is bad if someone in your friend network starts misbehaving – do you really want a friend that starts pressing every ‘like’ button he or she can find on a lot of very questionable sites or forums? You may be on holiday while somebody starts posting very strange texts on your wall. If it becomes searchable throughout your whole social network it may be something you do not ‘like’ (pun intended).

On the aspect of Facebook only containing your public information, I want to make another point; according to TechCrunch, we can expect Facebook to announce on Monday, October 15, 2010, their next step: Facebook Email.

Facebook email will make a lot of sense; because Facebook knows who and what is going on in your network it can help prioritize your email. You can also very easily integrate the contact data – that is probably why Facebook and Google had a fight over importing contacts from one to another last week. It is a natural extension to the wall postings and your email probably contains information that can then be of interest to any targeted advertising.

This may all be seen as paranoia and some of it probably is. After all if we want technology to work for us, we need to provide it with information it can work with. I would however very much ‘like’ it, when these companies gave us some kind of overview what type of connections and level of privacy access I have created. Some openness on my social profile would help me understand the impact of my actions.

Two thoughts to leave you with:

  • It would be fun if Facebook based its email on Microsoft technology (including the online Office components) – this would ready create a headache for Google.
  • To worsen your conspiracy feelings: would you connect your XBOX Kinect to your Facebook account?


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