Dusting Facebook pages for “friendprints” …

Ken’s Take:  As I continue to learn about Facebook and other social networking sites, three things strike me: (1) they are great places to share pictures (2) some people don’t have enough to do (note: at least I can claim that I’m doing “research” for marketing strategy classes) (3) people post some pretty indiscriminate stuff – some of which can / will come back to haunt them. 

I’m most  intrigued by the increased use of “behavioral profiling”  and “friendprinting” .

Behavioral profiling mines posted nuggets for ‘triggers’ and ‘patterns’. 

For example, all of the free email sites sift through a person’s emails looking for key words that might signal a propensity towards a particular category of products.  A guy who constantly shares sports tidbits with friends may coincidentally (?) start seeing a lot of pop-ups for odds & scores sites.

Friendprints are analytical inferences drawn from a person’s posted friends and associations. 

For example, if friends are profiled as being grads of good colleges, then it’s a reasonable inference that the person travels with a good crowd.  So what?  Well, ‘good crowds’ may spend more on certain things and may be more credit worthy.  It’s not proof, but provides clues.

What if — for privacy — a person ‘hides’ their friends list.  Well, a logical inference is that they’re hiding something.  A red flag for credit raters, prospective employers. and friends & family. Hmmmm.

And, as more friends lists get hidden, the marketing value of social networking sites diminishes.  Double hmmmm.

Below are highlights from the article on the general topic of privacy in social networking that got me thinking.

* * * * *

From Knowledge@Wharton, “Leaving ‘Friendprints’: How Online Social Networks Are Redefining Privacy and Personal Security”, June 10, 2009

People [say] privacy [is] important to them, yet they engage in behaviors that indicate a remarkable lack of concern.

Privacy thresholds vary by individual and  those boundaries are being tested by social networking.

The information people post, when combined with new technologies for gathering and compiling data, can create a fingerprint (or “friendprints” -like pattern of behavior … that can be decoded for both legitimate and illegitimate purposes..

Third-party applications (e.g. think credit scoring systems)can take data outside of the friendly confines of a social networking site and combine it with data from other sources (e.g. inter-site linking) to piece together enough information to “define” a person.

For example, just a person’s name and birth date — routinely found on a Facebook profile — can be a useful starting point for an identity thief.

The line between professional networking on a site such as LinkedIn, and social networking on sites such as Facebook, has become very thin.  Many Facebook users might create a more casual persona for themselves on that site than they would on LinkedIn, where they would include nothing but professional information. But both sites can be seen by potential employers and clients

And what about the person you don’t really know who wants to be your friend because you have some friends in common?  That new friend may just be mining your social circle for information. As networks grow and more friends of friends (and their friends) are accepted by users, it’s unclear who can be trusted.

“Though it is not difficult to sign up under an alias, it is extraordinarily difficult to change one’s friends and family.”

Full article:

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