The spread of social networks is now showing its dark side: the loss of privacy. There was an uproar a while back when Facebook subscribers found out that their online shopping sprees were being automatically reported back into their FB profiles for all their friends to see. You can imagine the surprise when they open up their FB profiles. "Hey, look what Seth bought at Victoria's Secret this week!" So FB did a quick reverse and added some new controls but the cat was out of the bag. Now everywhere we turn, we see our privacy being invaded.
It happened to me twice the last week, first on Yelp when I wrote a short restaurant review and--presto--it showed up on my FB profile. No one asked, I was never given the chance to opt out or opt in. But there it was, my review of an Italian restaurant (which I skewered). It happened again a few days ago when I rented a couple of new movies on Blockbuster Online. AT least this time, they gave me the chance to opt out (a little box pops up on the screen), but I need to test their system. I'm wondering now, if I don't check the "No", if it automatically uploads to my FB profile. It's not that my negative review of a restaurant or the fact I rented the movie Gone Baby Gone is anything to hide. It's just creepy when you can't protect your privacy.
Of course, we could all just opt out of social networks and go hide, but why should we have to trade off personal privacy to use these powerful tools? I've thought for months that, with the valuations of FB reaching astronomical levels, this could be just another bubble waiting to burst. A rebellion against the privacy invaders may tip it over the top.
People seem willing to make the trade, for now. Howl a little, then go back to Twittering. Meanwhile, the companies are looking at every angle to transform social networks into new marketing channels, tapping your personal information to either spread their brands or drive their sales machines.
Will they kill the golden goose? Probably not, but too much of Big Brother will certainly do some damage--we just don't know how.
Now with Google announcing they'll be putting your health records online with lGoogle Health I'm wondering what I'll be seeing show up next time I go to the doctor: "Mark's knee surgery was a success and he's now home recovering. Give him a "hug" or send him a virtual floral arrangement (for $1).