Social Structures

A couple of ‘social networking’ stories have been in the papers recently. First, Bilawal Bhutto’s Facebook profile has been mined by journalists, and certain Guardian readers think this may be unethical. Reader’s Editor Siobhain Butterworth discusses:

The fact that information is more or less publicly available may not be a complete answer to all arguments about privacy. Privacy is about intrusion rather than secrecy and the question is whether you have a reasonable expectation that something is private, rather than whether you have done or said something in public. These concepts are not easy to apply to social networking sites where the point of the exercise is to share information with others.

Meanwhile, its actually Bebo that has been crowned best social networking site by Which? Magazine:

The magazine said Facebook had a simple interface which made it easy to navigate. But it warned that the site had been marked down because its security settings could be confusing. “Our expert felt it was confusing to find out and change who can see what about you,” it said. “Plus, it wasn’t easy to find out how to permanently delete our account.”

These privacy and security issues are being cited as complicated perils that have no easy solution. It is as if Pandora’s Box has been opened and we cannot rein in the dangers now released, or keep a lid on the invasions of our identity. But I wonder whether the whole thing is just a product of bad design. If the software were structured slightly differently, we might not be grappling with these problems at all. Via Michelle at The Hive, we find this comment from Matt Jones:

“I know I’m biased but I wish people would just ditch/rethink so much of the default language around YASNSs, e.g. Pownce’s “Fan, Friend, ‘you denied friendship’. It’s so autistic. My preference is to describe what is happening to the information, not your relationships e.g. ‘share messages with X’… A return to cybernetics, my “friends”

My emphasis. Michelle’s post makes some other interesting points about how Social Networking sites are constructed, so do read the whole thing.

2 Replies to “Social Structures”

  1. I think the question of privacy is an interesting one – ie just because I’ve put something on the internet, does that mean that anyone and everyone has a right to read it? When the internet was new (-ish), I for one certainly assumed that the answer to that question was very obviously “yes”. A case of “poster beware”, so to speak.
    But of course, if that bothers you, then it hampers one’s self-expression somewhat. I think in these self-centric, self-indulgent days, in the trade-off between fame and privacy, very many people would choose the former at the cost of the latter. Even if you don’t buy the fame-seeking argument, you can reframe the trade-off as one between expression or communication, and privacy. In which case the former also seem to win out easily.

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