This new dilemma was highlighted to me yesterday as I tried to update my LinkedIn social profile to include my involvement with MajesticSEO. LinkedIn’s privacy statement is robust and reassuring, but they have a new beta section asking me to add details about my company. The “number of employees” section was a compulsory field. Now I am not especially precious about this data, but I serve many masters. My legally binding contract with MajesticSEO includes a confidentiality clause, naturally. Even if it didn’t, I think that I should make it just a LITTLE difficult for prying eyes to build up inside knowledge about businesses where I am not the controlling interest. What if you work for TESCO. How many employees even KNOW how many people work there?
Making this a compulsory field simply made me abandon the company profile setup.
The ongoing process of disseminating information about ourselves and our associates online through social networking has an insidious feel about it. Even the most honorable of useful applications usually requires us to hand over login details to complete strangers. Whilst it is often in our own interests to do so, that decision is also often not ours to make. Often we have casually promised confidentiality on the one hand, then casually ignored it on the other. You think you haven’t? How many online services require – in their terms – that you promise to keep your password safe? Well how about paragraph 3 of Twitter’s terms: http://twitter.com/tos. If you are on Twitter, you agreed to:
You are responsible for safeguarding the password that you use to access the Services and for any activities or actions under your password.”
Or if you look at the same URL on an iphone the agreement simply says:
You are responsible for keeping your password secure”
I agreed to that too. Yet I have given my Twitter password to at least the following: Ping.fm; Twitpic; Twittalator; Echofon; Netvibes; Friendfeed; Facebook; Some third party Facebook App; Apple and who knows who else. If we can’t share the logins with other applications. Mashed up services lose much of their value. But how do we reconcile breaking every agreement we enter into, without so much as a second thought?
OpenID was set up as a solution to this problem… But I doubt that system is infallable either. I feel Big Brother bounding in through the great big open barn door that we refuse to close or even see. Legislation won’t help either, if we so blatantly ignore agreements that we enter into, then legislation has already failed.