Should social web sites adhere to certain codes of conduct in the best interest of their users? I, for one, believe that this is a great idea, but one that would be quite challenging to uphold.
On September 5, 2007, Marc Canter (founder of Broadband Mechanics) and Joseph Smarr (head techie at Plaxo) teamed together to publish a “Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web.” In it, they lay out user “rights” specifically pertaining to ownership, control, and freedom of personal information. What I like best about this technological declaration is that they did not just sit down one day and carve these rules into stone; they presented the information in a blog-like format and opened it up for discussion, welcoming comments and suggestions.
With the dramatic expansion of social networking sites such Facebook and Myspace, it seems inevitable that someone would eventually come out and stand up for user rights. Besides, it would seem only natural that individuals who chose to present personal information about themselves would automatically expect a certain level of privacy, right?
Just last weekend, Facebook challenged these rights by publicly stating an adjustment in their terms of service. This caused quite a bit of commotion in the blogosphere. While it is uncertain how long this clause will last, this action has, in a way, opened up a can of worms. It is very likely that other networking sites will follow Facebook’s lead and take ownership of the data that is posted by their users. With the growing complexity and diversity of social networking sites, a part of me truly believes that this will be unavoidable.
People have debated the question of whether or not customer data belongs to the supplier, agency, or customer. While I agree with most that the customer should have full access rights to their own data, I am also a firm believer that the customer should take full responsibility of what they choose to post publicly. I came across these very useful tips (specifically for Facebook users) that allows the users to take matters into their own hands. While this does not completely stop Facebook from caching all your data, it enables the user to take better control of what is publicly viewable and what is kept private.
So, while a “Bill of Rights” can be useful, it would need to undergo constant evaluation since social networking sites are expanding at increasingly higher rates. Ultimately, it comes down to the users’ personal decisions.