|Column: Let's talk about trust|
Friday, 04 March 2011 11:35
Would you trust a complete stranger with your home address and telephone number? Something tells me you're about to...
Amongst all the general buzz about the iPad 2, an article on The Register mentions that Facebook intends to introduce a new feature that lets users share their home addresses and cellphone numbers with third-party application developers.
The key word here, of course, is 'lets', because Zuckerburg, after much outcry the last time he let privacy settings slip, has now learned that opt-in is the way to go. The argument from Facebook and every Facebook fan is that it's as ridiculous to hold the site accountable for the people's actions using the site as it is to hold a gun salesman responsible for murder.
Even when all people have to do to let their sensitive information go is click 'allow'.
Isn't that the same as only having to squeeze a trigger?
Edward Markey and Joe Barton, co-chairs of the House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, have expressed concern for teenagers who do not fully realise the possible consequences of sharing personal information online.
Their concern is understandable. It's easy to see how generation-Yers, who are so used to being connected to the world through digital wires, may find it perfectly natural to reveal whatever an app asks for. A phone number seems a small price to pay if it lets you play Farmville.
As a result, Facebook has been urged to consider an age restriction for that kind of information.
This argument, however, assumes that teenagers are the only ones who don't read every little word in those dialogue boxes. Can you honestly tell me you've never clicked on 'okay' without reading terms and conditions? And you don't consider yourself an idiot, do you?
Zuckerberg is known for his belief that sharing everything is becoming the norm, but Facebook's willingness to give applications access to this information says more about today's connected world than it does about the corporation. Sharing is easy, and why should there be a line between what is shareable and what is not? Why should home addresses be private? After all, millions of people post their location on Foursquare every day.
In fact, a group of concerned geeks got together to build a Web site illustrating the lack of wisdom in posting such information on the Net. Using the Twitter API, they began PleaseRobMe.com - 'Showing you a list of all those empty homes out there'. They wanted to draw attention to the fact that Foursquare and other apps like it can be dangerous. When you're checking in for coffee, we all know you're not at home.
Most of the personal information we scatter around the Web, however, is not picked up by robbers or even stalkers. It is picked up by corporations, those guys who create all those great IQ test apps and What is My Power Object quizzes. And once they have that information, they have an outlet for their spam, their scams and those 2am phone calls you don't even understand.
Dennis Yu, CEO of advertising and marketing firm BlitzLocal, came clean to TechCrunch last year, 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 said.
Can the gun seller be blamed if someone gets shot? No. But if organisations are not expected to care about the naivety of their customers, how come banks have security in place against phishing? They realise that sometimes people are too trusting, and yes too stupid, and they take action accordingly. As should Facebook.
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