Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Social Networking

(cartoon from www.computerweekly.com)

Are you on MySpace, Facebook or another 'social networking' site?
Which side do you stand on - just a bit of fun and self promotion or big brother and cyber crims stealing your identity? Here's a few of my thoughts on the whole 'social networking' thingo - and I stress, my own opinion at the moment. If you have an opinion - I'd be interested to hear it also.

As an introduction, I -am - on Facebook and use it a fair bit mainly to catch up with friends and 'friends' and a lot of mindless fun. I'm also on MySpace - which actually totally horrified a girl I knew. She wasn't aware that, even though I am "mature", I use it to get to know other guitar players and musicians which is a hobby.

I'm currently playing around with Linkedin as a professional tool, but it's early days yet. And for those of you who know that I hang out on the computer a bit - I want you to know for perspective sake, that I still mow lawns, do dishes, vacuum the house, go to a paid job and work and get exercise and (personally) am not an online gamer. I don't play WOW, Call of Duty, or even Hello Kitty's Island Adventures; I'll leave that to other pure pwnage fans.

OK here's my main point: I think in essence social networking is a fantastic way of "networking" with people, getting a bit of perspective into the views and beliefs of others, learning a bit of tolerance, developing social skills and having a bit of fun. However - there are dangers - and it pays to learn about them and to consider all warnings thoughtfully.

First the bad news...and I'm going to only talk about Facebook here...but similar will apply to other networks

Not all people are good
- does that surprise you? There are crims out there. Read this article about Facebook cybercrime and viruses
(See also www.fbhive.com for both the good and the bad.)
They can be invisible too. Like most crims who don't break in during the daylight - they may find ways into your site through a back door. A personal example of this is a friend of mine had his account hacked. I personally had this'friend' pop up in Chat (real time writing to each other) and he asked "how I was" and after a few preliminaries, this "friend" said that they were "stuck in London and could I send over $800 straight away" because they had "lost a ticket".

I smelled a rat.
A really smelly rat.

I asked my supposive 'friend' (who was using my poor real-friend's hacked legitimate chat and profile photo) a few questions...and then I asked him if he remembered HOW we first met? After being greeted with silence, I explained to this scammer - in words he could clearly understand, and not be mistaken about - what I thought of his little scamming game; and instantly deleted his account. So, yes - it does actually happen. There will always be a percentage of any large group of people, online or offline who have not-so-good intentions about you. So be careful.

You probably already know that you are best to screen what you say and what pictures you allow on your site (if you can help it). I'm told that many employers and human resource companies are getting quite good at roaming the internet for details about you and your online 'private' life to suss you out if you apply for a job.
So, as far as it's up to you - refrain from posting last Fridays drunken binge pix on your site. Also, updates like "my work colleagues are $%#@$%^'s" can get you in an uncomfortable situation or even fired from your part time job.

Finally - assume anything put on the net is public - no matter what you are told.
We all make mistakes - and let me tell, the older we get - the larger the catalogue :(

Facebook has had criticism that it declares that it 'owns' all information on it's site - which the CEO denies (see article in the age ). There is however, encouraging news that Facebook is being pressured in being more open about information it is giving away See Australian IT 28 Aug 09

Here are a few hints if you are concerned about your privacy settings on Facebook: Sophos recommended privacy settings

Back in the old days (I mean about ten years ago) we used to have mainly segmented lives but in the social networking world you can have 'friends' who you wouldn't usually mix with in the real world, so boundaries can get a little blurred sometimes. For example, I have 'friends' who are real long term friends, 'friends' who live overseas and I've never actually met, 'friends' who others would call "clients" from work, 'friends' who are work colleagues, 'friends' who I know from church, 'friends' who I hardly know but somehow we got connected and so on.

For me - and this is what i think is GOOD about online social networking:

It is an unnatural community - yet it is community. I often enjoy the online conversation and remarks people make. I like the interaction. Yes, it's technology, but behind each computer is a human being with all the glory and failings of humanity that we share. It's about people.

As far as it being public - at this stage - besides common sense online precautions (like locking your car in Hindley street), I'm not too worried about the public-ness. If you have nothing to hide, then it's not going to be a big problem. If you stuff up, like we all do - then apologise.

There are many Biblical principles, particularly of love and respect of others that will serve you well online as they do in our normal communities.