One of the first discussions parents used to have with their children as they emerged into teenagers might have been dating, jobs, savings, and responsibility. But it wasn’t mine with my oldest daughters. It was not about the person they are, but about the persona they want to be known by on the internet. As their fingers raced them across new social sites like Facebook and MySpace, together with IM and Skype and Flickr, it creeped me out that they were leaving notes, thoughts, and snapshots behind.
Instead of the birds and bees it was the wolves and the sociopaths, and future university recruiters and corporations reviewing their resumes. The basic discussion was: “What’s better, a picture of a garden hose in your mouth with beer pouring down a funnel, or you tending a garden in Guatemala in an impoverished village with a sweet comment about how you are tutoring for free during the mosquito-infested summer?”
“But dad, I’ve never been to Guatemala!”
“So what? Are you going to put it on your college application or resume? No. But it creates a great impression!”
And so they embarked on viewing their profiles as ways of shaping how they would want an anonymous lurker (employer, recruiter…) to perceive them.
OK, I’m exaggerating, but not by much. It is pretty basic that we are fools to think that the musings, personal data paths, postings, transactions and connections that we perform as a part of any activity passing through a social network will be captured, aggragated, and shared with people and organizations we don’t want to share with. And as business owners and government officials and university officers, we’d better think about this.
And yet there are so many Pollyannas who don’t believe data is shared without our permission. Welcome to the world of the HTTP referrer header, ladies and gentleman. And just wait until your customers and non-customers ask for your internet Bill of Rights (First discussed, I think – but correct me please - in 2007 by Joseph Smarr, Marc Canter, Robert Scoble, and Michael Arrington). What might be in it?
We, the customer, control the elements in our profile, and no one else. • We get to delete any and all of our social and personal data. • We decide if you can track our movements. • We get to decide who has access to them.
That’s just the beginning. Until then, we’d all better get to thinking about where we expect the issue of surreptitious data gathering to go. Your customers are watching.