I have always maintained that people are fooling themselves if they think social networks will always keep their promise to protect your personal and generated data. At some point, whether for collateral or as demographic information to be used by advertisers and marketers.
With the constant buying and selling of all these web start-up that exist only to gather this kind of information it is inevitable that your data will end up being controlled by companies that you know nothing about. In most cases the only value of all these companies is that data – your data.
What is really bothersome is that some of this data being bought and sold is information that could cause real damage to the very people who had offered up that very personal and sensitive information. Information that they believe that would be safe because the company said so.
A perfect example of this situation and potentially profound repercussions come via a post on ReadWriteWeb by Curt Hopkins. The post is about a now defunct gay teen magazine and website XY.com and how they have been forced by the bankruptcy court to sell the site’s user list as well as all the private user data that goes with those accounts.
Curt is exactly right when he writes
The selling off of private information, gathered under the supposition of privacy, is bad enough. Even worse if you’re forced into it. And positively untenable when the information is connected to kids who are dealing with a dawning sexual reality that in some instances is even more fraught than what straight kids go through.
That something like this can happen is morally reprehensible but it comes as no surprise. When only collateral a company has to offset debts incurred by a company; that for the most part is virtual, is people’s private information as well as any activity that they may generated this type of thing will happen more an more.
No amount of reassurance will convince me otherwise and incidents like this should set off warning flags all over the place. It should also make every single person using these social networks to think twice about what they do and say on social networks – any social network.
image courtesy of ReadWriteWeb