The price of privacy

The Register has an amusing account of a TechCrunch interview with Facebook creator, Mark Zuckerberg, claiming that he is a prophet.

Surprisingly,  Zuckerberg is not referring to foreseeing the rise of social networking, but rather the lapse of concern over privacy.

Zuckerberg said that he saw the coming of an age where people would want to share everything, and he aimed his business at that market.

“That social norm is something that evolved over time and we followed.”

But is it really a social norm? Or is it something that people are beginning to accept because the companies driving social networking have finally found a way to make money?

Social networking sink-hole

John Norton of The Guardian posted an interesting article last month about how social networking can not make money.

“The truth is that investing in social networking represents the triumph of hope over experience. The optimism comes from a feeling that it’s impossible to gather, say, 350 million people in one place and not somehow make money.” he says.

The number is not random. It is in fact the user count of Facebook as of last week – a population greater than that of America. And yet Facebook is still running at a loss. Twitter, according to Norton, has not made a cent.

These networks can not charge membership – for then people will just not sign-up. Advertising, which has worked so well for Google, does not work so well in other cases – with click-through dropping as low as 8% according to Norton.

Is investing in social media, therefore a waste of time?

Fun and games

by Steve Wampler on FlickrFacebook has come under fire recently for its privacy policy updates that, by default, share your information with everyone, including Google.

According to PrivCom.gc.ca, social networking is part of a revolution in marketing. It allows companies to openly harvest personal information about people and target products directly at them.

Dennis Yu, CEO of advertising/marketing firm BlitzLocal, came clean to TechCrunch recently, in an article about just that.

“People on Facebook won’t pay for anything. They don’t have credit cards, they don’t want credit cards, and they are not interested in shopping. But you can trick them”

He explained how applications developed for Facebook can go viral, and users are all too willing to give over their personal information. This data includes who they are, where they’re from, what they like and most importantly email and phone numbers, which can be sold to advertisers.

A number of court cases, including the recent class action suit against Zynga and Facebook, are attempting to defend users against such scams, but how much good will the suits do if people are so willing to give away their personal information?

The information age

As I mentioned in my previous post, we’re in an age now where people want to get to know each other online, and this requires sharing of information. On that much  Zuckerberg and I agree. However, Zuckerberg implies that a willingness to share automatically means people are no longer concerned about privacy.

The dawn of social networking brought about the creation of a new ecosystem, where in order for the environment (the sites) to survive, the sharks (the scammers) have to survive too. The people who frequent these social networks may not be aware of the danger, they my make silly mistakes like offering a limb to a great white (Farmville springs to mind), but this doesn’t mean that they no longer care if they’re eaten.

When it comes to privacy I believe there’s a very fine line. People may be more willing to share what their favourite food is, but that doesn’t mean that they want to be harassed in their own homes by telesales people trying to sell it to them.

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~ by tallulahlucy on January 13, 2010.

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