Friday, April 22, 2011

Safe Facebook = Clean Coal?

There have been lot of discussions around energy recently in the aftermath of Fukushima nuclear disaster. Especially there have been increasing talks about clean burning coal technology and its hopes and reality.

I don't know about you, but when I hear clean coal, I know I have to pay extra attention to actual scientific claim to differentiate marketing and political spins from scientific facts. I get the similar reaction to late night TV ads like no exercise weight loss drug. Something smells funny.

Well, that's what I felt when I heard privacy, safety and Facebook in a same sentence.

Whole premise of Facebook and social media is sharing. When sharing things, there is that inherent risk of sharing information with someone whom you didn't intend. In fact it happens quite often. Think about disgruntled ex-employee causing harms using insider knowledge. Although information is shared at good faith, it will cause harm if you share too much information without some protection.

Be hold, victims of hacked FB accounts;
Check it out yourself at
It should be noted that using Facebook, likewise, is inherently risky business. You can always share too much without proper protection. Only mechanism that protects us from someone using the information against us is mutual trust. We all value trust and that is what's keeping these social interactions possible in Facebook.

But there are always cases where people fall victim to information piracy because of not knowing whom to trust or how much to trust. That is a real problem.

When we meet people in real life, we get to use multiple senses to see, hear, read and touch people around us, and make judgement on how trust worthy they are. Yet in Facebook, it is not as clear. It is too easy for ill-intended individual to mask their true identity and pretend to be someone else. All they will need is a fake Facebook account and copy-and-pasted picture to impersonate someone who they really are not.

Facebook is doing something, but so far it looks more marketing than real;
What's real? Read below for suggestions.

This problem manifests in multiple forms in Facebook.

One obvious case is people creating fake Facebook IDs. Although it is clearly in violation of Facebook terms of use, Facebook is not instituting an identity validation.

Another is many malware Facebook applications. Facebook has written application developer's guide to encourage good behavior, but there are too many people who are taking advantage of social trust. As number of people who abuse the trust, Facebook will ultimately become less safe place and will have to deal with less sharing as a consequence.

Yet another is unclear privacy policy. As I wrote in my last blog entry, FTC has enforced Google to be held accountable to third party privacy audit. Adding a new feature without clear privacy guideline will be not only bad thing from organically growing more sharing, but also FTC has shown its willingness to go after such an underhanded tactic.

It's refreshing to see similar sentiments expressed in other bloggers like Graham Cluley at Sophos and Justin Williams at Classy Llama Studios.

Ball is entirely on Facebook's court. Will Facebook become cleaner burning coal for all the rest of social media industry? Or will it continue to pollute social media with unregulated social pollutants?

What do you think? Please tell us how Facebook can make a better socially responsible environment for all of us.

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