Dennis D. McDonald (ddmcd@outlook.com) is an independent consultant located in Alexandria Virginia. His services and capabilities are described here. Application areas include project, program, and data management; market assessment, digital strategy, and program planning; change and content management; social media; and, technology adoption. Follow him on Google+. He also publishes on CTOvision.com and aNewDomain.

Managing Online Social Network Data Access is Like Living In a House Built on Sand

By Dennis D. McDonald, Ph.D.

I’ve been trying to follow Facebook’s changing privacy rules and its introduction of the “like” concept on Facebook and elsewhere.

I don’t pretend to understand everything that’s going on — and I don’t want to devote more time to managing something that started out as “social networking” in the old days of “web 2.0.”

Problem is, either I’ll have to get more involved online. Or maybe I’ll just throw in the towel and delete my Facebook profile.

Why should I be making it easier for people to target their advertising to me? It would be one thing if I were getting paid for providing access to more personal data, but I’m not.

One fundamental problem that Facebook and other online services have as they try to make their services serve both social networking and commercial advertising markets is that personal and professional relationships are too complex and changing to be easily represented by concepts such as “fan,” “like,” or “friend.” Building complex data access and privacy rules on top of these categories  complicates matters even more.

It’s like using the Federal tax code as a vehicle both for gathering revenue and for favoring different competing business, professional, and social interests. The tax complexities get to be so great that we have to hire professional accountants to help us pay our Federal taxes.

Watching Facebook extend its tendrils throughout the web to establish an infrastructure of identity and privacy management that it controls to its own advantage appears to be moving us in that direction. I expect any moment to receive an intrepreneur’s email, FB message, or Tweet offering to professionally manage my privacy settings for all the online networks I belong to. (Actually I assume such services already exist; I just haven’t received their pitches yet.) Meanwhile, I have to decide how far I want to go in using “free” services such as Facebook.

Perhaps Facebook could offer a paid service whereby, for payment of an annual fee, customers would be able to use the service without being subjected to any advertising or commercial messages. That would be the default setting. After that, a single list would be supplied on the member’s Account Management page  that gave a dollar value for various access privileges, e.g., for allowing Pandora access to my personal data, I would get a $5 per year discount on my annual fee; for allowing Kraft Foods to see my personal data I would get a $10 discount, etc. This could continue to the point where I would then get a net payment for all the users who get to see my data. Maybe I would elect to donate the money to charity. Perhaps I would just roll the money over to the next year’s account renewal.

What do you think?

Copyright (c) 2010 by Dennis D. McDonald

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