Friday, November 2, 2007

Online identity, reputation and privacy

Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, GMail, Hotmail, Yahoo!, YouTube, Amazon, eBay, FeedBurner,, Flickr, Friendster, corporate identities... and a bunch of others. Thank God I have resisted the temptation of using Second Life and Twitter! And a newcomer, I'm giving a try at Naymz:
Naymz Profile for Mr. Stephane Hamel

It's like managing our flesh and blood life wasn't already hard enough, now we have to manage our identity in the ether.

While we hear more and more about so called "social network" horror stories or email bankruptcy, a "Giaant", I mean Google, is sticking to its corporate mission to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful". This week we witnessed the birth of the gPC, a simple and cheap solution that totally avoid Microsoft while being enough for most casual home users. This PC is not "built by" Google itself but obviously heavily backed up. And that's not the only battle front for the business "Goood" of the 21st century: gPhone, backing mySQL, OpenSocial (and a first security breach in 45 minutes!), Google enterprise plans and probably other stuff we don't suspect today.

At the same time, while Facebook was an unsuspected player just a few months ago, it is raising to become a data-pit of private information grown to unprecedented scales. It seems that Project Beacon will raise segmentation and one-to-one marketing capabilities to a new level... this will be done within a closed, badly developed, unusable interface... with the consent of its users. My personal experience of Facebook isn't very positive. So far, the 57 "friends" I have in Facebook and the Web Analytics Quebec group that gathered 41 fans in a week haven't proven to be very effective to ease constructive communication (other than the zombies and a bunch of other useless gadgets).

All of those have one thing in common: information concentration in the hands of a few. And these days, information is power. Sadly, history has proven that too much power in one's hand, even with the pure and honest intention of "doing no evil", inevitably ends up in chaos.