Leaving “friendprints”: The fingerprints of your social network
July 23rd, 2009Posted by: Theo Nicolakis
Social networks have seemingly conquered day-to-day interaction for so many Americans. The Pew Internet and American Life Project has chronicled the meteoric rise in the use of social networking sites and what’s amazed me is how much information people are so willingly posting on these sites. For whatever reason, we must seem to think that “private” really is “private” and that no one can see what information we’ve posted. Moreover, I don’t think that we think through potential consequences. Let me give you an example.
What I personally have always found peculiar (no offense to anyone!) is all the games, quizzes, and other similar sorts of things on Facebook. Finally, one day, someone asked me to join a cause or sent me a name day icon through Facebook. When I saw the warning that by accepting this application, I could be exposing my personal information to the application I stopped right there. Something about that exposure never seemed right to me.
Well, fast forward to this great article on “Leaving Friendprints” published from the Wharton School at UPenn.
Lance Hoffman from George Washington University correctly said that by giving away basic information such as your name and birthdate and your list of friends, we’re exposing far more than we know. And when these “applications” have access to all that, it’s a potential recipe for identity theft and more.
I won’t belabor the points as I think the article touches them, but simply put I personally think that social networks are introducing a new socialization. We are simply becoming accustomed to giving away information about ourselves—our names, addresses, where we are, what we like, etc. In fact, it seems as though if we do not do these sorts of things we are somehow limiting our or inhibiting the opportunity for social touch points within our networks. Like Pavlov’s dog, the more we reveal, the more likely we are to be rewarded with acknowledgements and positive stimuli via our social network.
Now, why don’t we add to all this the GPS and location-aware features of the new iPhones and mobile devices. It’s Twitter on steroids: where I am, what I’m doing, with whom, and then able to share it. We’re entering a world where we are going to be carrying and connected to our social networks all the time, in every place.
So, the question I raise is: “Do social networks not only reduce our sensitivity to privacy, but do they also increase our desire to receive social stimuli and positive reenforcement?”
I think the answer is, “Yes” to both.
I’m not sure that’s necessarily a good or bad thing. What I am sure of, however, is that no matter how much or how little we willingly or unwillingly give out we are certainly going to see more and more issues of privacy compromised, identities stolen, and identities forged. As companies can also mine data from what you post, your likes, your interests, and those within your network, we are likely to see more and more potential for consumer profiling done with tremendous ease.
I love technology; I love what you can do with technology; I think technology is a great enabler. However, I’m not necessarily comfortable with all the ways in which technology is being socialized and enculturated. I’m not sure I really like leaving my “friendprints” all over the place.