The Social Networking Wars

Tug of War

So Google and Facebook really seem to be going head to head.  Google does not send people to Facebook and vice versa.

I am sure we remember that back in May, Facebook was discovered to be guilty of hiring a PR firm principally to tar Google’s reputation in regards to their privacy policies.  However, Facebook themselves really aren't any better!  They have been caught red-handed using personal data in inappropriate ways.  All you need to do is read their Terms to find out how blasé they are with some of our most personal information. 

Here are some of the more interesting ones I found –

When you access Facebook from a computer, mobile phone, or other device, we may collect information from that device about your browser type, location, and IP address, as well as the pages you visit.

...that makes me feel safe!

We may ask advertisers to tell us how our users responded to the ads we showed them. We may receive information about whether or not you’ve seen or interacted with certain ads on other sites in order to measure the effectiveness of those ads. If in this case we receive data that we do not already have, we will “anonymize” it within 180 days.

...why do they need that long to ‘anonymize’ my data?

You grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook

...sub-licensable? Wouldn’t that mean they can then pass my data on to third parties without consent?

When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time

...does this mean my data is available ‘for a reasonable period of time’ to their own conquests?

And now Google have launched their new social networking site (Google+), with functionality that is not currently offered by Facebook, it's adding more fuel to this competitive fire - giving what they say is a more secure, user orientated social networking experience.

Coincidently this comes about as Google and Facebook clash over online advertising dollars and how people use the internet.

Google’s method seems to be ‘throw-out’ as many diverse products as possible and see what sticks, they have had more failures than successes – take for example Google Buzz.  The company is still facing a vast number of privacy complaints in the wake of this particular failure and Google is now required to undergo independent privacy audits every 2 years for the next 20 years due to a settlement with a US regulator.

Google+ may have a small market share of those people who are unhappy with Facebook, but it seems unlikely that many people will switch over.

The market seems to be in a back-lash in regards to social networking and more and more people are refraining from using these sites in the carefree way they used to. Users are more aware of how their personal information has been used inappropriately by other people and are quickly learning how these bigger sites are using their personal information in ways that are unreasonable to the them.

I think if people are going to switch, if any new site is going to become the new wave of social networking – it is going to be a start-up that respects the fundamentals of privacy.  A site that doesn’t get involved in all the mud-slinging.  A site that the users enjoy using, want to use and can trust. 

Not Facebook and certainly not Google.

Photo (cc) Ross Vernal