I love social networking. Say what you will, it’s never been easier to keep in touch with friends and family.
As a technologist, I particularly love the “network” part of it. I’m really happy about the way the big companies have opened up their APIs, which allows third party developers to add all sorts of functionality that no one company, however large, could or would build on their own. I also roll my eyes when people complain that Facebook and other social networks are…GASP…exposing our personal information without our knowledge. Why? Because it’s not without our knowledge. You don’t even have to read fine print to understand that. Sharing personal information is the purpose of social networks after all. It does mean that people share more than they used to, and that can be embarrassing in ways that didn’t used to be possible, but I think it’s worth it.
Yet I’ve realized recently that I shouldn’t be quite so dismissive every time I see yet another “FaceBook Privacy Scare!” headline. There’s a valid point to the concerns about what happens to your data in social networks. Even though it should be obvious that saying/revealing/posting things on a free public site is by nature a public exposure, what isn’t obvious is that modern data-mining techniques have ramifications here that almost no one is truly prepared for. After all, sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic: Continue reading