Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Unintended Broadcasting

One of the features of many social networking sites like LinkedIn, FaceBook, MySpace and others is the ability to control the connections between family, friends, and colleagues and share information with them that others outside the network cannot see.

Whether it is contact information, lists of favorites, or other bits of information, this feature is in large part one of the strengths of these tools which draw people together because of some shared interest or experience.

Many of these sites are seeking ways to make a buck. The most common way to do this is either to provide features that are only available by agreeing to pay a subscription to access these features and the other way is to incorporate advertising.

Steven Levy asks an interesting question about FaceBooks move to integrate "social advertising" into its site. This feature essentially generates an "ad" based on products or services used by its members. The problem Levy identifies is that these ads are not controlled by the members but are rather auto-generated by the site.

There are numerous issues raised with this type of approach ranging from member privacy, control of information to unintended "sponsorship" of products and services used by members.

From a workplace perspective, what issues are raised as members make personal choices for products which may be from competitors? Should employees fear retaliation from their employer as this information is "broadcast" to their community (which may contain co-workers) without their knowledge or permission?

Levy, Steven (2007, December 10). Do Real Friends Share Ads? Newsweek, 30.

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