I just got an invitation to a social networking site called Bluenity, sponsored by KLM/Air France. The idea is that they provide a platform for travelers to share experiences and maybe hook up somewhere to share a cab or whatever if their paths cross. It is similar to Hyatt’s yatt’it social networking project for its Gold Passport loyalty programme.
Being professionally and personally interested in these kinds of things, I started to explore the site but got increasingly nervous. It was asking me lots of information that if I were an airline marketer, I would be very interested to know. Things like why I travel, what my main departure airport is, where I travel most, which other airlines I use, what trips I have booked in the near future and on which airlines… I have no reason to believe that they are doing anything shady with this information, but I felt increasingly uncomfortable providing so much of it. The lack of a Delete Account function also dismayed me. Is it interesting to them as a company as well as part of a social network that I am flying to San Francisco on British Airways next month instead of KLM? The reason I am going BA instead of a direct flight from Amsterdam is that BA is about 30% less expensive, but there is nowhere to enter that.
I am generally not too paranoid about the information I provide. I understand that using consumer sites is a transaction: they provide me valuable functionality and in exchange I agree to provide information about myself or be exposed to advertising (often both). But providing information directly to a party which could use it in ways I might not like seems to go too far. I am far more comfortable telling an independent (and pretty cool) site like Dopplr, because its existence depends on providing a good experience to users. They also have lots of information about me, but if they abuse it, users leave and they disappear. If a social networking site sponsored by a vendor folds because users don’t trust it, then the web agency hired to launch it moves on to the next project.
How do you decide which sites to trust?