Post #6: Foursquare and the Open Graph, Achtung Baby

Okay, let me start by saying that yes, I am aware of the fact that I am a marketer. I know that nothing should thrill me more than something like Foursquare, where people can holler to the winds that they are at such and such a place doing such and such a thing. I know that as a marketer the news about the Facebook open graph should have me feeling like I’m on some sort of Cloud 9. The marketing future has been paved with gold. The internet is forever young. All of the goals of the great explorers, from Coronado to my personal fave, Ponce de Leon, have been fulfilled. I get it.

However, and I just add this as a bit of an aside, marketing is only a portion of my life. I mean, don’t get me wrong, marketing is great. Love it. But I do have other facets to my personality, and those facets are all curled up into the fetal position right now.

Let’s start with Foursquare. The first time I saw a friend posting Foursquare updates, I left a comment along the lines of, “If I am going to stalk you, I want to have to work for it.” As I saw more and more updates, I began shaking in my boots, not necessarily for the folks I saw, but rather for possible ramifications.

I tend to jump mentally to the worst case scenario. It’s a gift.

But to me, what jumped to my mind is that now, if someone (heaven forbid) wants to hurt a child, they don’t have to go to a chat room anymore. They don’t have to plot and plan. They just have to watch Twitter and see where kids are going. How can this be monitored? Another good point that even my paranoid mind hadn’t thought of: if you are letting the world know where you are, you’re also telling the world where you are NOT. Other folks have thought of this and created a site called Please Rob Me. You can read more about that at Tech Crunch.

I understand that there are a lot of other things out there that, like Foursquare, help broadcast your location to the world. It just seems like this one is spreading a little bit more like wildfire. Are we being careful?

Now for the Open Graph thing. I’ve had a bone to pick with Facebook for the last year or so, full disclosure. I don’t like the fact that the site’s interface changes every five seconds. But what I especially don’t like right now is that if my friends decide to play Mafia Wars, they are not only sacrificing their time, which is fine, but they are also sacrificing some of my privacy. No matter how locked down you think your account is, applications can still access some info like your profile picture. And this new Open Graph thing? It’s built on that same kind of application platform.

I’m not really worried about myself in this scenario. I always was kind of creeped out by Facebook. “If you enter your email address we’ll find all of your friends” stood out as an “achtung” sign for me from the start. But there are people who are using their credit card on Facebook. There are people who are probably posting things that they really shouldn’t be posting. There are kids posting things that probably shouldn’t be posted. Are they aware that their settings have been changed to automatically allow Social Plug-Ins? I was aware of it because I saw the news because that’s part of my job. I went into my settings and dug all the way to manually blocking Microsoft Docs, Yelp, and Pandora as applications. Is everyone that aware? I don’t think so. And they’re not really getting a kosher heads up.

I don’t really have a problem with the idea of the internet becoming a social mechanism. I’ve been frightened enough times by PPC ads related to email content showing up that I’ve just accepted that you have to live with what you post. And as a marketer, the possibilities are exciting. But as a person, and in particular a person who worries about other people who may not be plugged in mentally even if they are plugged in socially, I just worry that maybe we’re not being careful enough.

What do you think?

2 comments
Chase Adams
Chase Adams

I know this one is from a little further back in the archives, but I thought I'd drop my thoughts...

There's a big piece that Isaac Asimov kind of warned people of in I, Robot: The End User is the safest safe guard. The real rub of the matter is to be smart about it. I don't check-in when I'm going to the bank. I don't check-in when I'm going somewhere alone. I don't check-in to somewhere that I know other people won't be for a while.

People have to be responsible for their actions and in turn, have to be responsible for the way they raise their kids...there were cellphones when we were in Middle School, I had one, and I knew that I only needed to use it when I needed to use it. That hasn't changed. What's changed is that many parents give their kids smart phones to entertain them or appease them. Make 'em wait, right? Give them an opportunity to prove that they know how to be smart about using their technology.

As for the Open Graph, I'd argue the same thing...be smart about it. When I get involved in a social platform, I go into it knowing that someone is going to be able to capture my information...it's the 21st Century, it's almost inevitable. The worst part about that is that it's right there in the Terms of Service, and those social services are required to notify their users when they make changes to them. It's time people learn to read their agreements they get into. I'd hate to find out the implications of not reading a binding contract that says, "you can have my information". It'd be a re-run of the housing collapse, people getting into contracts without realizing what it is they're actually getting into.

:)

Great post Margie, as always, putting the mental wheels in motion.

Margie Clayman
Margie Clayman

Thanks, Chase!

I agree, the end-user bears the responsibility for his or her own fate. But are people getting educated about that? Are they aware of the dangers? It seems to me like alarmists are kind of brushed off to the side these days. "You're just not ready for the 21st century." And that's okay, but like I said, I hope we don't have to have a tragedy to make people reconsider.