Craig Murphy: author, blogger, community evangelist, developer, speaker

The Social Programmer

August 6th, 2007 at 1:17 pm

Facebook: seek and ye shall find

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Over at Facebook, Robert Scoble, recently posted a video asking this question:

If you search for “Bill Gates” on Facebook you’ll find lots of entries. But, let’s say you were looking for the guy who started Microsoft. How could you tell which one is the “real” Bill Gates?

According to one comment on the video, your search is likely to lead you here: http://www.facebook.com/s.php?k=10080&id=502040841. And, to answer your question: “no, I didn’t send a friend request to Bill”. That’s not to say we wouldn’t get on, I’m sure we would…I’d like to podcast with Bill, but that’s for another time!

Now Robert hasn’t told us anything that we couldn’t of worked out ourselves, therefore what he has done isn’t illegal. But what it does demonstrate is that even if you wish to remain anonymous on a social networking site such as Facebook, simply by looking at your circle of friends, an individual can easily find you. That’s not to say all social networking sites are like this. LinkedIn, for example, promotes the notion of “introductions”, whereby one of your “connections” can introduce you to one of theirs – you are unable to see the profile of the person you are being introduced to. Facebook, at the time of writing, suffers from poor privacy because I can easily view my friends friends and their friends too. With big names like Bill Gates, as Robert kindly demonstrates, I can easily work out who might know somebody and within a few clicks, voila, I have the person I am looking for. It’s just too easy.

Elsewhere in this blog I have already discussed the security concerns raised by the social networking sites. Microsoft’s Steve Lamb has picked up on it too, spreading his ammo over four posts relating to Facebook applications, Facebook friend requests, Facebook privacy and in the same domain, his mother’s maiden name. Clearly Steve is as worried about the opportunities that social networking sites are providing for would-be criminals as I am. There’s so much personal information available on the Internet already…now it’s just propagating as the masses swarm to the social networking sites leaving all sorts of personal information littered over a plethora of profiles. It’s a big problem.

My foray into the social networking world primarily revolves around Facebook (others are under consideration) and what its “value add” is in terms of Community. It has mileage, for sure. It’s a good thing, privacy and security issues aside. I do like it. But I have lots of questions: How is it affecting our daily lives? What are people getting from Facebook itself and from Facebook Groups? Why are there so many social networking sites? These are all questions I hope to answer over the coming months, but in the meantime, please feel free to comment about your experiences in the social networking world.

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