Thursday, 10 January 2008

Don't use Facebook - because of security issues! Really?

Since a few months I get the feeling that public (or media) opinion is shifting towards a more critical position regarding online social netwoking applications like Facebook, MySpace, Orkut, etc., mostly because of privacy and security issues. To one extent the emphasis on a more considerate approach to communicating his own data is definitely desirable. Privacy is an issue and we need to be careful to whom we tell what about ourselfs and where we store and publish which data for which purpose. On the other hand however, I have the impression that there is a current tendency to throw out the baby with the bath water. I actually meet more and more people who in a very strict way say that they would never register on any of these networks, sometimes referring to media news about identitiy theft like recently about Facebook.

In my opinion, there is a problem with this thinking, at least as far as security is concerned. The issue with the current security cases rather is that lots of Facebook users just quickly installed a third-party-application without checking its origin, which then turned out to by a spyware. This is kind of the equivalent of opening an email attachment from a sender they don't know - something which you just NEVER do, because you most probably catch a virus by doing so. Email users worldwide had to go through a painful learning process in order learn how to use email in a reasonable and secure way, and service providers had to improve their software and infrastructure in order to protect their clients from fraud and harm.

For social network applications it's exactly the same. Users need to learn how to use them deliberately (which by the way also includes not publishing any piece of junk about oneself) and providers need to invest in security. The latter - like Facebook - are in fact just starting to realize the work which is ahead of them. To say therefore we shouldn't use these applications at all is like saying we shouldn't use emails because we could catch viruses and people could hack them. That just doesn't make sense, because the benefits of both these applications are just too remarkable to ignore. Instead, we need to keep using the tools and learn about them, so we can improve them and make them more secure to use and thereby even more beneficial in the future!

In fact, online social networks are in my view the way to interact in business life in the future, like email was since the 90ties. Therefore we should consider the current times as a pilot phase for the new work environment ahead of us, even if some of the lessons we learn as we go might hurt a little bit.

3 comments:

Christian said...

I am very sure the privacy we were used to has changed through the web in general. But that does not mean we shall give it all up. What facebook is doing is unbelievable in my opinion because they basically give private data to anybody willing to pay. Each person should be able to decide exactly what kind of private information can been seen and used (!) by third parties. This is not yet possible in facebook. As long as this data is commercial exploited we have a dilemma. To efficiently engage in social networking quite a lot of personal information has to be offered by a person simply to find other people with similar interests. I really hope social networking will become like blogging, where one has an application to be part of a network wherever he wants to and under his own personal control. As long as the social networking potentials of websites such as facebook is so small I honestly understand why people do not want to register.

Johannes Schunter said...

You are right, selling personal data of users is a problem. The ideal solution would be to have control over what data exactly is given to third parties (e.g. for advertisement purposes, which might as well be in my interest as an additional source of information). The current state is painful, but still I think we need to go through this phase in order to reach calmer waters where customer concerns are taken as seriously as they should be.

Mike DeNeut said...

Did you know Facebook delets people, even when they don't violate any of their guidelines... Theie customer service is vague and horible.. Everyone should avoid Facebook..