Publish it on the Net and it’s Mine…or Maybe Not…

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For some time now, I have been a fan of Google search capabilities. I love tracking useful information in the corners of the Internet.  I am also a fan of social networking. If you personally publish—or allow information about yourself  to be published—I have the right to use the information Google or other search engines find. Certainly if you post information about yourself on a social networking site, you are giving me the right to capture and use it as I wish. On the other hand,  if you provide information to me that I have promised you in writing that I will not share with others, you have a right to expect that I will not to share that information.

On April 27, I advocated for inclusion of social networking fields in the GoldMine customer relationship application, saying that I belong to the church that encourages integration of everything that has to do with focus on the customer in our *customer relationship* product.  The idea was to give GoldMine users a built-in field in which to include links to social networking sites used by customers.  I felt that such a field would help GoldMine users capture public data published by a customer – potential, current or even past. Why? Consider the kinds of data typically published in social networking sites. Birthdays, favorites of various kinds,  networking neighborhoods and pictures all help me to understand you at a level you are comfortable with sharing—but absent your posts I might not ever have discovered about you.

The scenario I pictured in that article was that you–my customer–have a FaceBook or LinkedIn or Plaxo account. I, also having accounts like that, see your FaceBook account and notice that you advertise your birthday as June 19. A couple of mouseclicks and your birthday is now in GoldMine.  So on  June 17, I put a  birthday card in the mail to you. No sales pitch—just a personalized, friendly greeting that will remind you of me. Nothing more sinister than that.

Then there is the collection of data which, when originally scattered around the Internet suddenly has new meaning when compiled in one list and made easily available to those who might be interested.  Searching, finding, collecting, compiling  and posting publicly-available street addresses of board members of a large volunteer organization can result in chagrin and a request from an organizational authority to delete the list.

Then there is a whole new level of data collection and re-packaging I am not sure I want or need.

Google’s Social Graph api is the next level of data manipulation and presentation, and I’m not certain I’m ready for it. Do I really want a third party looking at the various relationships I have established (customers come right to mind) and manipulating the data in a graphic to build yet another social networking utility? From what it looks like in Google’s presentation, that seems to be the goal. Or is it? Somehow, Google’s statement that

“Information about the public connections between people is really useful — as a user, you might want to see who else you’re connected to, and as a developer of social applications, you can provide better features for your users if you know who their public friends are. “

does not leave me with a warm and cozy feeling.  I already know who else I am connected to.  And it’s not necessarily all the people who are connected to the people I know or associate with. I’d rather just have you send me an old-fashioned birthday card because you saw my birth date on FaceBook.

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