Saturday, January 23, 2010

Social Media Dangers in our Brave New World

Creepy Ways Your Social Media Data Can Be Used
People who use social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace are not known for their reticence -- many put just about any personal information imaginable out there.

The risks to such openness are clear -- from inviting tailored phishing attacks to appalling potential employers with one's late-night party habits -- but many users who are tech-savvy appear willing to brave them. The risks they don't know about though, however, are a different matter.

Increasingly, there are signs that companies -- from financial service firms to affiliate marketers -- are targeting social media for new purposes. Roger Thompson, chief research scientist with AVG, for example, believes his credit card company has incorporated data from his Facebook account into his credit card file. He told of an incident in which he had to verify information about himself for security purposes, and one of the questions was about his daughter-in-law -- information that the bank didn't get from him and is only publicly available on Facebook, he wrote in a blog post.

Some credit card companies and financial service companies reportedly are developing algorithms based on an account applicant's online friends -- the theory being that deadbeats tend to associate with one another. Other stories focus on shady affiliate marketers weaseling their way onto a member's account and then sending sales pitches and product recommendations to their networks, supposedly from them.

These practices are not necessarily mainstream -- but the general trend is clear: Companies are recognizing the treasure trove of data sitting on social networks, and are beginning to experiment with it.

"2009 was a watershed year for social networks, with the numbers of people joining or expanding their use of these sites," Dallas Lawrence, chair of the digital and social media practice group at Levick Strategic Communications, told the E-Commerce Times.

"The next stage, I believe, will be companies taking all this information [and] combining it with new search tools in order to sort through the trillions of data points available," Lawrence said. [...]

The article goes on to discuss how such data may be used, the legal implications, and consumer rights.

The blog post by Roger Thompson, linked to above, was especially creepy. I don't use Facebook or Myspace, but after reading this, I can only wonder, who is "harvesting" what from sites like, or any sites and forums where a person posts with their real name? And what are they using the data for?

Oh Brave New World...

No comments: