Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Mobile/Privacy/Social: Social Networks Could Be More Troublesome Than Helpful

Facebook is one of the greatest privacy violator in recent memory since the Big Brother and the Oceanians in Nineteen Eighty Four.  And while it does seem at times that society is moving in that direction and we're not quite there yet (today, we learn that California will now allow warrant-less searches of mobile devices), online social activities by users seem to be moving us in that direction all together.

And while Facebook and other social networks are in it for the profit, it's likely that certain individuals or companies can go online and really do some damage to an user when given the right opportunity.

TheInquirer.net reported on a RSA internet security conference where Ira Winkler, a security guy, used the example of the Chinese intelligence apparatus going to Linkedin to target individuals or companies to obtain informations or informants.  Movie stuff, right?

Definitely not.  I've thought of such things.  I don't know how I would go about doing it (being that I'm not devious enough and all), but I'm sure others probably have thought of ways of doing that already.  

Just a couple of years ago while I was driving on ski trip when my friend was informed by one of his friends that someone pretending to be him is asking everyone of his "friends" on Facebook for their contact information.  So yeah, it can happen.

And then there are those location-based check-ins.  Android users have Google's Latitude and iPhone users will get "Find My Friends" with iOS 5 is released tomorrow but these services are nothing like the more popular Foursquare.  I use it from time to time but I also get a lot of weird folks trying to friend me.  So supposed I did and I check-in across town and it'll take me a hour to get back home.  That means it'll give someone about an hour to go through my house knowing safely that there's no way I'll be home for a while.  And chances are, if you check into a restaurant or movie, potential thieves have even more time.

So, how worried about you about such things?  I think we need to worry, a little.  We are only in the early days of social and mobile integration with tech companies push the envelope each and every single day.  And you've got companies like Facebook pushing the bounds of privacy, feign to be apologetic when there is an outcry and pull back a bit, and then when no one is looking, trying again.

Can you imagine a day when companies, perhaps with government support, require that we provide information that about what we eat, check into where we go, and provide other information in order to use technology.  Right now, Google requires that we use our real identity in order to use Google Plus.  What if one day, Congress made it illegal to create alias for online social activities.

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