Thursday, October 15, 2009

As Facebook Grows, Privacy Issues Exposed: Technorati

This article originally published in Technorati October 14, 2009.

Let’s face it: Facebook has done a masterful job of flipping the social networking script on rival MySpace over the past three years. Holding nearly sixty percent of all social network traffic in the United States, Facebook has become the undisputed heavyweight of social technology. Twitter remains the media darling, but has proven difficult to quantify from a traffic standpoint (those of us who use the service regularly have noticed a sharp drop-off in quality content, and rumors abound of a plateau in the near future).

The public recently received an interesting bit of data from the folks over at Facebook: “The Gross National Happiness Index”. Compiling the data was a relatively simple process: the Facebook team conducted a search for recurring words or phrases in status updates and attached indicators.

The moral of the story?

Intellectual property content uploaded to Facebook – even content blocked using privacy filters – is licensed by Facebook. Images, videos, and private messages are all categorized and indexed in massive databases freely searchable by the Facebook team, and presumably available for sale to advertisers.

From the Facebook Terms of Service:

“For content that is covered by intellectual property rights you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: 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 ("IP License"). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.”

Keep this in mind as advertisers and revenue streams for social networks become more sophisticated. As an advertiser, I would gladly pay Facebook a tidy sum to tell me at a microsegmentation level the behaviors and preferences of my target consumer audience.

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