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Posts Tagged ‘social’

Social features and privacy concerns

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

On the forum thread about the new social features, there seems to be a lot of discontent. I’d like to try and address some of the key concerns here (since if I do it primarily on the thread, it’s less likely to get enough attention from those who don’t want to wade through all the posts.) Hopefully this helps clear things up.

First of all, the ‘integration’ into the .org really amounts to just adding a bunch of links (the ‘share’ stuff; I’ll get to the FB “like” button in a minute). Just like any other kind of web link. If you don’t want to follow a link, don’t click it.

Nothing that wasn’t possible before has now been enabled; it’s just easier to accomplish with the share buttons. Anyone could (and lots of people did) post links to threads on Facebook and other social sites before these changes, and really that’s all the new buttons do.

On to some specific concerns:

Concern: using the links makes some association between a Facebook user and a user, or personal info will make its way to Facebook from the org. No, it doesn’t/won’t — unless you add a message with the link like “hey, look at the thread I just wrote on!”. Facebook has no clue what your username (or any other information from is. And doesn’t know what your Facebook ID is. Note that it is possible for a site to get information from Facebook on visitors, but we don’t do this, have no intention of doing this, and think it’s a bad policy on FB’s part.

Concern: the share buttons are too close to the other elements on the page and might result in mistaken clicks. Well, they might — but none of the buttons actually submit anything to the other sites. If you click one accidentally and then just close the resulting window/page, nothing has happened on the remote site, and typically the pop-up will close — so, pretty harmless. I’m open to finding another place to put these buttons, though if this is a lasting concern. Or even to adding an option to ‘hide’ them from your “org experience” if enough people are really peeved about this.

Concern: what about if someone posts a org thread to FB and indicates an orger’s real name? Well, what if they did this before the buttons were added to the org? And why would you believe this if someone did? If I post on my FB account that “Sheila E.’s stealth account just posted this thread about a new concert!” and the thread was started by “OaklandSheDrummer”, is that conclusive? Why would you necessarily believe that? Just because I said so? I mean, I’m a trustworthy guy, but if I really did know Sheila’s stealth account on the org, would I spill the beans just so my FB friends would think I’m cool? They already think I’m cool :) And besides, nothing about the new buttons makes this any more possible than it was previously — it just makes it take about 3 seconds less time to do it.

Concern: I don’t want my FB friends/family to see what I do on the org (or that I’m even on the org). They won’t, especially if you never use the like/share buttons on the org. That’s simple enough, right?  To reiterate: Facebook doesn’t get post anything about your activity just because you visit the org. And if someone else posts a link to an org thread on your wall, for example, that still doesn’t mean you wrote it / post on the org / are a member of the org. I can post on any of my friends’ walls links to but I don’t think that means anyone who reads it will assume those people share the views of people on that site; and you can always delete anything off your wall, too.  Technical caveat: FB does, in theory, know that you visit the org IF you are logged into FB when surfing org threads, because we need to fetch the ‘like’ button “iframe” from facebook, and most browsers will report what the “referrer” is ( during these kinds of requests. However, this kind of information never gets into your FB news feed, and most companies consider ‘referrers’ unreliable, in part because all ‘privacy’ software blocks them. Note that also, if you use the Facebook Toolbar, then they know this already (and lots more) about you.

Concern: if a thread gets linked from Facebook, it’ll be Google-able. Threads are already Google-able. Google crawls the site nearly every day. Try googling for some terms that are in a specific thread that’s more than a few days old, and you’ll almost certainly find it in the search results. That’s kind of the point of Google :)

Concern: I see people’s real names next to the FB ‘Like’ button! WTF?! Yes, you do, if you’re logged into FB as well. If you’re not logged into FB it just says “12 people like this” or whatever. IF you are logged in, AND someone whose FB profile you could see by going to FB directly (i.e., is in your social network AND has their privacy settings set to allow you to view their profile), AND has ‘liked’ that thread, THEN you see their name there. But you already knew their name, because they’re in your network. And just because they ‘liked’ it, doesn’t mean they posted on the thread. It doesn’t even mean they are a member of the org. And again, didn’t send any info to Facebook, nor the reverse. The little bit of the screen that has the ‘like’ button and the text next to it, comes from Facebook’s servers directly, and all it “knows” is who you are on FB (if you’re logged into FB) and what URL on it happens to be embedded in, that’s it. Nothing new is ‘exposed’ to FB, beyond what I spoke about in the technical caveat above.

So to sum up, these buttons really add nothing new from a capabilities standpoint — they simply make sharing that was already possible, easier to do, for those who care to do it. Be careful using social sites, no matter what — people WILL use them to try and find out information about you. Set your privacy settings as you prefer them (it’s your responsibility to learn them and tweak them), or if you’re really worried, just don’t use social networking sites. I personally am not a big FB fan, but a lot of people are. Some people undoubtedly find out “more than they’d care to know” about me by reading my profile or wall on FB, but that’s my responsibility to manage, and I don’t post something if I really don’t want it seen. These are powerful tools — it’s up to you to use them wisely and judiciously. But just adding essentially a bunch of links, to the org, isn’t going to magically cause new privacy issues.

Anyhow, I did say this stuff was an experiment. I’m open to tweaking the buttons (placement, having a preference to enable/disable them, etc.), but we need more data before I can make an informed decision about anything around them. Let’s give it a few weeks and then maybe do some polls. But of course, you’re always free to discuss it further on the blog here, on the site discussion forum, or with me privately, as well (heck, you can even send me a note on Facebook, although so you know, I generally don’t accept friend requests unless I’ve actually met you in person and like you  :) ).

Social sharing features, take 1

Friday, May 14th, 2010

We’ve added the ability to ‘share’ threads via Twitter, Google Buzz, and Facebook, all with just a couple of clicks… as well as ‘like’ a thread on Facebook. The new tools are just above the start of the thread on those pages. See the highlighted image below:

Let us know how you like it, if it works for you, where else you think we could benefit from social integration, etc.