Assumed consent in social media apps is evil

Software applications on social media sites that assume consent may be a mistake for Internet retailers.

One of the best ways for an Internet-based company to enter the social media world is through the creation of a Facebook.com application.

A successful app will drive traffic to the company's native site, create direct sales, and promote online reputation.

So what exactly is meant by a Facebook app? Well, it could be a simple as the Vampires application that allows members to "bite" one another and become "vampires." This application is fun, simple, and has gone viral (in the sense that it has become very popular). The application is monetized by way of advertising horror movies in the application's interface. And because Facebook is all about sharing, all of one's friends can see one's Vampiric status via the same interface.

But complaints regarding privacy are starting to surface in regard to such apps.

Facebook applications can be based solely on direct sales. Companies like Overstock.com allow--or should I say encourage--Facebook users to purchase from its Web site through its application, without ever leaving Facebook.com.

The problem is that people's purchase information is being shared. After making a purchase, the Overstock.com app displays a small box in a corner of the browser interface following a transaction. This box alerts people that information will be shared with other Facebook users unless they click on it to negate the sharing. The box fades away after a half minute or so, after which consent is assumed, and all your friends can see what you bought.

I'm no lawyer, but that sounds kind of "iffy" to me. And even if it is a legally binding procedure, it certainly isn't going to do much for customer satisfaction!

There are, evidently, other large e-commerce sites with similar or identical interfaces, and my instinct is that Facebook and these large companies will solve the problem quickly. It makes a good example, however, of social media gone awry. The term "social" does not automatically imply that sharing is the default; part of being social is having the choice to share or not share.

Purchasing items, especially during the holidays, often involves gifts, and the surprise of a well-chosen gift to a friend (who may well be in your Facebook world) is as social as it gets.

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Tech Culture
About the author

    Jeff Muendel is a Search Analyst for Netconcepts, a search engine marketing firm in Madison, Wisconsin. He began his technical writing and SEO career with the IBM Corporation in Poughkeepsie, NY, and then rode the dot-com boom through startup companies in California, Texas, and Wisconsin. He specializes in SEO related to social networking, video, Flash, and other Web 2.0 parameters. Jeff can be reached at jmuendel@netconcepts.com. Disclosure.

     

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