The final panel of last week’s SIIA NetGain (#Netgain) conference covered social networking. Representatives of Facebook, Plaxo, Salesforce.com and LexisNexis were on the panel. The conversation focused on how the different social networks were going to enable users to connect and share data between them. There were a bunch of PowerPoint slides shown; one in particular illustrating how Facebook information can fit so nicely into Salesforce.com.
The Facebook, Plaxo and Salesforce folks were telling the audience that they assume 1) people want and need the ability to have their various social network profiles linked, 2) the average user will be able to easily control who sees which bits of information among their various social networks and 3) this is the greatest thing.
It’s a given that everyone’s privacy is a wasting asset but I still believe the panel is making terrible assumptions. Many individuals currently keep their personal privacy and professional privacy separate and given a choice, a many would elect to keep them separate forever. If I’m a contact in someone’s salesforce.com database I would never want them to have access to anything I might have posted to Facebook. They don’t need to know what my kids are up to.
While the social networks are not forcing users to link their profiles, it’s pretty difficult to reclaim something you have abandoned, even in an experiment. And based on the panel discussion, the social networks will be encouraging experimentation. Don’t do it. The risk is greater than any possible reward.
Aside from the obvious risk – someone using salesforce.com or Plaxo sees some spring break photos or the odd groups you belong to on Facebook – there is the hacking risk. A chain is only as strong as the weakest link and if someone can hack into a relatively insecure service that is linked to another, the data contained in all the linked services may be vulnerable. I’m sure I don’t want to participate in this picture from the Faceconnector website. There’s a reason they say not to mix business with pleasure.