Is Social Portability Getting Closer? Is this a good thing?

Back in May, I posted "What does Social Portability Mean?", pointing out that ‘portability’ is more like ‘copy-ability’ .. where parts of data can be can be copied from one social network to another. Much progress has been made in the past six months; not all of it to your benefit. More on this in a moment.

A few weeks ago, Google and Facebook announced "connect" services; essentially competitors / co-operators (connectors) to each other. Google launched “Google friend connect” and Facebook “Facebook Connect”. Not to be outdone, MySpace followed a day or so later with the announcement of the “MySpace Open Platform”.

All three companies announced beta versions of these solutions earlier in year, and since then had been racing to be first-to-market. Looks to be a three-way tie, actually.

In short, the purpose of these services is to enable a user to use their current social network profiles to log-in, connect to, and participate with other social networks.

Is this needed? I do think so, from the social network maintenance perspective. My opinion was echoed on Twitter just the other day: "I don’t know how many more social networks I can continue to maintain". I agree fully. With everyone, their cousin and every vendor to which I can point, social networking functions abound.

How many do you maintain?

But: what does this mean to your privacy?

There are huge issues with privacy. Disparate bits of data about you from one source can be combined with data from other sources. Together, these data can create a complete enough picture of you that a concerted social engineering effort can put your identity at risk. Once site might have captured your date of birth, another your place of birth. A third may have your favorite pet’s name, the street on which you grew up, or your mother’s maiden name.

One site I encountered just today offered the last four of my Social Security number as an alternate means to identify me. Are they for real?

Add all these bits together and you run the risk of someone convincing your bank, your credit card issuer or most any financial entity, that they are you.

My points:

  • Social Portability is something that the web needs.
  • Security and privacy need to be built into the system at the very core.
  • Assurance of identity is something else the web needs. Power it with OpenID, LiveID or some other identity provider. We need secure federation systems that connect these identification paradigms; we need a unified methodology to log on to Web resources.

The risks to the social networking sites:

  • Sharing customer data essentially refers one network’s customers to competitors.
  • Reducing the ‘moat’ that one social network has over another; people belong to one site or another, based on features and the critical mass of other users’ interests with each other.
  • Advertising revenue.

How many social networking sites do you maintain? How much do you share with your favorite network? How much are you really willing share with the web at large?

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About Michael Coates
I am a pragmatic evangelist. The products, services and solutions I write about fulfill real-world expectations and use cases. I stay up-to-date on real products I use and review, and share my thoughts here. I apply the same lens when designing an architecture, product or when writing papers. I am always looking for ways that technology can create or enhance a business opportunity .. not just technology for technology's sake. My CV says: Seasoned technology executive, leveraging years of experience with enterprise and integration architectural patterns, executed with healthy doses of business acumen and pragmatism. That's me. My web site says: Technology innovations provide a myriad of opportunities for businesses. That said, having the "latest and greatest" for its own sake isn't always a recipe for success. Business successes gained through exploiting innovation relies on analysis of how the new features will enhance your business followed by effective implementation. Goals vary far and wide: streamlining operations, improving customer experience, extending brand, and many more. In all cases, you must identify and collect the metrics you can apply to measure your success. Analysis must be holistic and balanced: business and operational needs must be considered when capitalizing on a new technology asset or opportunity.

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