Podcast: The War Over Privacy

This week’s podcast is from my weekly slot on Radio Australia Today with Phil Kafcaloudes and Adelaine Ng. This week we discuss privacy in the light of Facebook’s changes, the sale of Friendster, and one guy’s battle to delete his online past.

To listen to the podcast, click on the button below. To subscribe, click here.

Loose Wireless 091211

I appear on Radio Australia Today every Friday at about 9.15 am Singapore time (that’s 0.15 GMT/UTC.) There’s a live stream of the broadcast here, or find out your local frequencies here.

This week’s column – What Price Privacy?

This week’s Loose Wire column is about Gmail, Plaxo and privacy:

PRIVACY IS ONE OF those things you either obsess over, or don’t see what all the fuss is about. You’re either someone who gets indignant when a shop assistant asks you for your home address at the checkout, or you’re not. You either hate the idea that your credit card is a mine of information about your shopping habits, or you couldn’t care less.

This debate is timeless, but the Internet and in particular two recent new phenomena have brought it into focus. The first is a crop of on-line networking services that range from automatically updating your contacts’ details, such as Plaxo Inc.’s address-book software to networking Web sites like Friendster and LinkedIn, which allow you to hook up with other users with similar tastes or business interests on-line. The other phenomenon is something called Gmail, the soon-to-be-launched e-mail service from the soon-to-be-listed search-engine company Google.

Full text at the Far Eastern Economic Review (subscription required, trial available) or at WSJ.com (subscription required). Old columns at feer.com here.

Update: Friendster is a Noun. It’s Official

 You know you’ve arrived when your website name becomes a noun or a verb (and people making fun of your name in school doesn’t count, which rules me out). Friendster, the social-networking service I mentioned a few weeks back, will hit 1 million users this week, and is expanding at a rate of 20 percent a week, Wired reports.
So much so, that it quotes Danah Boyd, a U.C. Berkeley Ph.D. student researching online social networks, as saying the word “friendster” is entering common usage. Just as “googling” now means looking something (or usually someone) up on the Internet, “friendster” is now used to describe a person that someone meets or knows through the network. “A friendster is not exactly a friend, but rather an online acquaintance about whom a lot is known, thanks to the degree of disclosure in their social resume, which, of course, may or may not be true,” Wired says.
Worse, or better, depend on whether you think this is a good way to get to cram your PDA address book, Friendster networks are popping up for sale on eBay. Friendster engineers are also working on an interface that lets users see their social networks as an array of faces arranged like a spider’s web on their screens.

Link: Friendster

  A new website, Friendster, run by a guy working out of his living room in Silicon Valley is getting plenty of coverage. Friendster works a lot like the dating services I’ve reviewed in the past, although it also talks like a networking service.
Tyler Hamilton, writing in The Toronto Star wrote this week, “Jonathan Abrams only opened Friendster.com to the public in March, and in less than four months, the online community claims more than 750,000 members consisting of his friends, their friends and their friends’ friends.”
The basic idea, and where it may wind up better off than dating sites, is that people connect through their friends. As someone once said of dating services, they’re obsolete to the user once he or she gets what they came for, namely a soul mate. Friendster goes further than that, in theory, by folding in both friendship and love.
Maybe that’s why it’s caught on quickly. An impressive example of word of mouth — even I heard of it, although I have to confess the kind of folk in my particular friendship niche don’t seem to be quite as interested in the things that I am.
I also noticed some teething problems, which prevented me from logging in to see how popular I was. Understandable, in a product that’s not yet out of beta. The site is free for now, but will probably charge those who want to contact people they don’t already know.