Musings of Navigating The Finite remainder of life from Porchville, with the hope of a glimpse of The Infinite

Monday, October 11, 2010

Social Networking? Perhaps. Information Netting? Definitely!

I received an interesting email over the weekend. It was from one of the social network sites. I suppose you would call it a friend request. It was in behalf of one of my book club buddies who lives in England. It stated that he had set up a account where he was going to post photos and wanted me as a friend. In order to become a friend and see the photos I would have to join the site. At the top of the email was a photo of my book club buddy. More interesting however, at the bottom of the email was a section titled Other People You May Know. There with full names and cities of residence and photos were my wife's uncle, my wife's cousin, and a friend of a friend. Indeed I know all three. I could recognize the names, cities, and the photos.

At first I was somewhat awed. "Wow, this is pretty cool!" Then I got a little pissed. "How the hell does this site know that I know these people?" These people all live in the US and my book club buddy is in England. Yeah, I know that doesn't make any difference but it does add to the creep out factor.

I have never had any interest in social networking. So I have never been tempted to join or even look at these sites. So I emailed my buddy a polite note that while I was honored that he would want me for a friend, I am not into this sort of thing and I have read that the social networks get a little cavalier with one's private information. So I declined his offer.

Now it gets very interesting. He wrote back that he did not send a friend request to me, he has never sent a friend request without using private email first. Hmmmmm! He indicated that he was searching for some relatives in the US and the site requested to see his email address book.

So it sounds like these sites will take a look at your address book and then start sending unbidden friend requests in your behalf. So now I am really pissed, and somewhat frightened. This is getting out of hand.

I doubt that my wife's uncle and cousin, and the friend of my friend know that their images, names, and cities of residence are being sent out to people on the basis of automated friend requests sent by social network sites in behalf of people they do not know.

We, the common people, have something that money can't buy, anonymity. I do not ever put my real name, birthday, employer, or photos of myself on the Internet. I am starting to have doubts about putting my city any longer. On any site I give as little information as possible and will intentionally lie on questions that I think have no relevance. What does some internet book club need my real name, address, date of birth and phone number for? They don't. Usually if that is a requirement, I say adios. Nor do I join any site that requires your email address to be public.

I find it extremely troubling that I got this email. I am not mad at my book club buddy. He did nothing to instigate the request, and it would not have bothered me if he had. I would simply decline. I don't hold the individuals responsible for what these sites are doing. The site is the target of my anger. What are they doing with my email address in their files? Why are they sending friend requests without the members knowledge? Why are member's names, photos, and cities being emailed to potentially strangers in behalf of strangers?

I would recommend not joining these sites. If you already have joined I would recommend quitting. From what I have read, your information stays on the site even though you have quit. These sites are collecting information about you and using it without your permission. HANDLE WITH CAUTION!


  1. That's creepy! Haven't experienced anything like that and hope I won't. When the lottery scam first came out, I had a marvelous time. I've been looking for a new post, and now I see that you've been distracted. This really sounds creepy, not at all like the lottery scams. When they started, I actually had fun. I "won" a lottery in Nigeria. Their country lottery had an e-mail address was When I got the instructions to send money, I said I found that odd. Lottery winners in this country received money. Why should I send them money. I never heard anything further of course. If I were you, Henry, I'd get this info to your Attorney General. Something sounds fishier than a simple scam. And whatever it is it is international. I read somewhere that the three bits of info that should not be in one person's hands are social sec no., birth date, and credit card number.

  2. This is not a scam. The site is not trying to get money from me illegally. Rather than being a breech of the law, this is more of a breech of ethics, trust, or faith.

    The site actively accrues members and attempts to get as much information as possible from people. Why? They get paid rather handsomely by advertisers and clients using the demographics that they can provide. The CEO of the site has stated that privacy is an “evolving social norm”. The site has been criticized and sued for changing the privacy rules and maintaining complex privacy settings that tend to default to disclosure.

    Evolving social norm? Well that is his opinion. My opinion is that one privacy and anonymity is priceless, and one does not hand it over on a platter. That is why I will never be a member of a social network.

    BTW this is my third attempt at posting this damned comment. I wrote it on Word this time, so when Blogger chokes I will still have it.

  3. I happened to pick up a Reader's Digest -- yes, another visit it a doctor's office. August, 2010, issue. Lifting pictures for use elsewhere was discussed. Also, the new use of social-networking sites "to reel in victims. What you've described sounds to me like prep work for a future rip-off. You might take a look at the article.

  4. Hmmmm! Lifting pictures for use elsewhere! Guilty as charged, and I have struggled with this a bit. I do not know the official rules for this. I imagine that they are quite simple. Don't do it. Images can be protected by a copy right. So I have some internal rules. Never use pictures from a website that sells the photos. Don't use them from any site that makes a production about being copy righted, which is all sites of course, but site usage rules are one thing. Large font warnings about copy right is another. I always give credit and a link in the post. I feel fairly safe and (although maybe not justified) in my usage in that I am not making any money from any of my posts and they do not contain advertising. Finally in a court of law, what is the impact of my theft? I have two readers. So yes I borrow images, but I always give credit and a link.

  5. You have more than two readers. I know them. However, they are not as naive as I am, so they make no comments, do not sign up as fans, etc. They read me, too, and are not signed up as fans.

  6. Why do you consider making comments naive? With little evidence to the otherwise, if it were not for the comments I could see myself returning to a private journal on my computer and to hell with blogging. You don't have to be careful with the grammar, you don't have to give credit, and you can plagiarize all you want. Blogging, for me makes me do the extra work...try to find images, keep it readable, try not to offend. I do put some effort into these blogs and if no one is reading them, why bother?

    Comments gives life to these things. Somebody out there agrees with you or perhaps thinks you are full of shit. Either way you get some feed back. I don't want to be a source of controversy and flame fests but feed back does at least make it seem worth while. If it were not for your comments, I may question the value of doing this.

    The fan thing is a bit FaceBooky. I don't really care about how many little pictures I have collected. But I would like to know someone is reading these things and has some thoughts about it. Otherwise why not just go with a simple journal and not worry about the extra effort?