On Facebook, identity theft and walled gardens

by Lee Hopkins on July 20, 2007 · 3 comments

in miscellaneous

My bearded and astute friend and colleague Dan York has once again entered into a discussion about Facebook and its nature as a ‘walled garden’.

A ‘walled garden’ is an internet site where content goes in but it never comes out; aka ‘Google can’t search it’.

If you are a Facebook user, are you aware that you are giving Facebook that right to all of whatever content you bring in?  (Do you care?  Perhaps not.) 

And do you care that in order to really use Facebook to its fullest, everyone with which you communicate really needs to be a Facebook user?

Don’t get me wrong.  I have no intention of not using Facebook.  With its incredible growth in terms of users and apps, I do believe you ignore it at your peril.  It may very well be “THE Internet portal of 2007″.

But let’s realize that that is what it is… a portal… a “lens” through which you can see Internet content and collaborate with friends.  Granted, it’s a portal with a really nice platform for bringing in content from the rest of the Internet into its own private garden. But the walls around the garden are quite high… and no one can really play inside that garden unless, they, too, come inside the walls.  (And bring their content with them…)

Dan has conversed before about FB being a walled garden, and in one of my posts yonks ago I pointed out some of the ‘interesting’ Terms and Conditions that you must agree to when you create an account there.

There is no doubt that Facebook (‘FB’) is important and must be a part of your daily life — heck, I spend the first two hours of my day checking my FB updates. Scoble reckons FB has got it right compared to all the others. John Battelle asks why FB and why now? (and he doesn’t have an answer).

Wired have a list of their favourite FB applications, and proof that it has power comes from the news that a ‘boy band’ just signed for a ton of dosh.

I am personally delighted to see two of my clients dipping their toes in the water and finding out what this ‘Social Media’ thingy I’ve been banging on about actually is. But to them and to everyone else I remind you: FB is just one tool, one channel. It is not the whole picture!

And as ‘This is Money’ point out, FB is an Identity Thief’s paradise!

James Jones of credit reference agency Experian said: ‘I actually joined Facebook myself recently and realised that I’d put far too much information on there and had to go and take it all off again.

‘It’s great fun, but you do have to be careful with the level of information you put on there. You’re meant to be protecting this type of information, not putting it in the public domain.’

Owen Roberts, ID fraud expert at Callcredit, adds: ‘Unfortunately, all too often users are sharing the kind of information that is the lifeblood of an identity thief. Every day we see the devastation caused by having your identity stolen.’

Online banking fraud rose by 44% last year to £33.5m, according to the payment association APACS. Internet shopping fraud hit £155m.

Roberts adds that alerting criminals to your movements could also cause potential danger. For example, many people state that they are going on holiday in their ‘status’ bar, which if coupled with an address could alert burglars.

Roberts says users should consider very carefully who they accept as friends, as well as having a range of different passwords for their online services.

Meanwhile, Jones suggests inputting the odd piece of incorrect information, such as altering your date of birth by a couple of days.

As the ol’ Hill Street Blues Sarge used to say, “be careful out there.”

On long-form and short-form self-expression

As I briefly discussed with Neville Hobson (via FB), I fervently hope that FB doesn’t kill off blogging. Blogging allows much greater range of expression, as I have previously mentioned, and also works hand-in-hand with Google and Yahoo! Search engine exposure is a fundamental part of online business, especially for bricks-and-mortar businesses who are expanding their presence and marketing reach.

Serendipitously, Steve Rubel and others are also wondering if the long-form blog will be killed off, or at last severely maimed, by 140-character micro-blogging a la Twitter and FB.

Perhaps Google need to buy FB and open it up to the world… but as for long-form versus 140-form, who knows? I hope that Ed Kohler is right:

“Some people like news or thoughts. Others like analysis. It’s hard to say that one is more valuable than the other since both draw audiences, but clearly, shorter form content leans toward the former.”

From: Disruptive Conversations: Facebook and the giant sucking sound of all your content coming in… and never leaving… forever… (and Facebook can do whatever it wants with it!)

  • http://occamsrazr.com/ Ike

    Lee – I nearly subscribed to one of the blog-related widgets at Facebook, and killed it at the last minute.

    The terms allowed the third-party to republish my content anywhere else! I might just write something valuable one day…

  • http://occamsrazr.com Ike

    Lee – I nearly subscribed to one of the blog-related widgets at Facebook, and killed it at the last minute.

    The terms allowed the third-party to republish my content anywhere else! I might just write something valuable one day…

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