The Social Networker

by Chris Miller at 11:26:02 AM on Thursday, February 26th, 2009
I do not push this feed to PlanetLotus, of course, but knew some of you should start reading it.  What are your thoughts?  The site has been covering privacy issues across social networks and even cell phone providers.  Take a peek and let me know here in the comments

by Chris Miller at 09:30:00 AM on Tuesday, February 24th, 2009
I recently got into a discussion on how spammers on Twitter were now trying to make the spam accounts look legitimate by performing a couple of preliminary steps:
  • following a handful of the top twitterers and some random others (like their other spam accounts)
  • making some quick pointless tweets over a day or two to make it look like they are starting out on Twitter
  • and then following you
The hope is that you would follow them back and they start building up a list.  Here is the catch.  The only thing they gain is a single direct message at some point with the spam.  One single message.  Nothing more. A blink in your Twitter day.

Most of us then are quick and smart enough to block that user from following us and in return unfollow them.  No real harm done and you are not swamped with tweets.  So what is all the hype about spammers using Twitter.  Where is the gain they get?  Where is the market?

One helpful item from Twitter would be a date in their profile of when they joined Twitter (yes TwitterCounter does it at the bottom of the page, but why does it take an outside tool).  While that is not always an indicator of any kind, many join just to follow along and see what Twitter is all about, it is a good start in pruning the feeble attempts from spammers.

by Chris Miller at 11:59:05 AM on Thursday, February 19th, 2009
There is a lot under the covers of Google Latitude that you do not really notice they have made them so subtle.  After you get a Google account (I publish under IdoNotes at that google dot com thing), here are some starters:

Adding friends:

When you are adding via either the mobile device or on the web (I prefer the web for a lot of contact management, one or two is fine mobile) then look for the blue square icon next to their name.  It means they are already using Latitude and you just need to set sharing controls.  Everyone else gets email and not every checks it.  I grow more by posting a tweet then using the email service.

Privacy Controls
This is a huge area and needs your attention.  Google can automatically detect where you are through GPS (3.0.2 for Blackberry) or the best location by cell towers.  Unless you want your every moved watched, I do not suggest this one.  I prefer setting it manually.  You could hide it from everyone, but since Google does not offer any history, who cares?

At this point you now decide how much information each person can see.  Sharing for friends ofers some options which in turn affects our next section on icons and what you see.
  • Share best available location.  This is telling them where you are basically.  Great for family and close friends.  Also great while wanting to be found in public and for the kids at the park.
  • Share city level.  This is the most normal route I think people will take for the general population.  It offers a psuedo location while protecting exact spots.
  • Share nothing.  Once again, why use the service or make them a friend.  Unless you are hiding for some reason like you are with their boyfriend/girlfriend or at the strip club at lunch.

The icons and what they mean

First, the following is for people in your friend listing
  • The crossed-out eye means that you are hiding from a friend.  They can't see you.  Like peek-a-boo for geeks
  • An icon of a skyscraper means you are sharing city only info with that friend

Second, what you see on the map
  • A blue border around a person means that they have recently updated their location and share it with you
  • A grey border around a friend on the map means they have not recently updated their location.  What exact timeframe this is I am not sure but I have seen anything over 5 hours go grey.
  • A faint circle around a friend means that is an approximate location, Latitude is trying to narrow it down
  • A friend on the map in blue or grey but with NO little arrow under them only shares city level with you.  So look for the little point below their picture to see how much they like you

Random items
  • When you update your status message in Latitude it also pushes that out to Gooogle talk and your Google profile.  Be aware!!
  • Also you can input your phone number so friends can call or SMS direct from latitude.  Cool feature but they should have your number if a friend right?
  • Select any friend in your map and you can get directions to them depending on sharing level they give to you (remember grey border they could be gone and no arrow you don't know exactly where.  Look for blue and point)

by Chris Miller at 11:39:28 AM on Tuesday, February 17th, 2009
All the turmoil has a solution built into the new Terms Of Service (TOS) by Facebook themselves.  I went through it a few times and while this isn't a loophole, it is actually for your protection and you should be exploiting it before deleting your account.
You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof

While what I about to say has nothing to do with external sites or someone/thing grabbing it.  Much of their tect is now standard across social networks, hence the reason we created to cover all the social network (and phone carrier) privacy controls.

Facebook specifically says that they will obey your privacy settings on any data they keep before deleting your account.  That means you if you:
  •  remove all your friends
  • make sure you are not tagged in any pictures
  • go in and set everything possible section of privacy controls to private
  • remove your wall postings and other previous public areas
  • then delete your account

So this could never be fool-proof from others having emails or copies.  It does set the privacy restrictions of Facebook from using your content to copy, publish, stream, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, adapt, etc etc etc.  You basically leave the,mm with a silo of hidden information.

Everyone breathe.

by Chris Miller at 04:06:55 PM on Monday, February 16th, 2009
The new location awareness feature for Gmail from Google Labs (blog posting on why it was created) is NOT a set it and forget it type thing.  Once enabled, it allows a tag line to appear in your email showing where in the world you might have been when composing and sending.  It uses the public IP address to identify you as best it can, however this has enormous limitations and false indicators.  That is why I use the words might have been.

For example, sitting at one of many Harrah's hotels across the country over the years, I noticed that many used the same pipe out the Internet, no matter where I was.  I used to utilize Plazes for location services and when it came on to guess my location, Las Vegas here I came!  Unfortunately I might have been at one in St Louis, for example.  While this is not always the case, it is definitely not an exception.

While you can turn this off and even manually remove it from the signature area, how many of us actually recheck the signature block each time before sending?  Once you create it, you forget it.  And this blends right in at the end.  So when you tell your boss you are working hard and it shows you at the lake, don't be surprised to the result.  Better yet, I wouldn't be shocked to see some spouses turn this on for unsuspected snooping.  First we had Facebook status divorces, now Google location ones?

by Chris Miller at 02:39:11 PM on Tuesday, February 10th, 2009
In having some fun with the manual updating of Google Latitude, instead of the automatic updating on the Blackberry, I tried some random locations to see how it tied me to them as compared to public places in Brightkite.  Humorously it actually did it and gave some funny results.
  • Mars - it set me in New Mexico, I imagine near Area 51.  At the edge of Lincoln Forest
  • Earth - hmm, Chumstick, WV.  West Virginia has a lot of earth I guess.
  • Moon - set me near Sugar Valley, New Mexico again
  • Space - San Dimas, CA. This worked for "outer space" too
  • Inner Space - Georgetown, TX
  • Venus - out near the desert in California.  Not the hottest place but made sense
  • Milky Way - Wyoming, go figure.  Land of milk?
  • Snickers - I was going for space theme but after Milky Way who not.  I am now in Tennessee
  • Pluto  Den Helder, the Netherlands.

You get the idea, make your own.  But this makes no sense to me at all.  Are you sharing with me on Google Latitude and Brightkite yet?

by Chris Miller at 10:10:51 AM on Monday, February 9th, 2009
In an excellent move on timing, Brightkite added Facebook connection to add friends (screenshot).  Google Latitude requires you register only for their account type and does not allow you to import or search against other programs for contacts outside of gmail type, Brightkite keeps adding functions.  Opening the door to 150+ million users is not such a bad idea now is it?  Google will need to look at opening the way it allows you to grow your friend base, as well as features and functions to make this a viable choice for location awareness.

Image:Brightkite adds Facebook Connect support

by Chris Miller at 12:02:52 PM on Friday, February 6th, 2009
Yesterday I asked about the attitude people had in tweets and blogs  about Google Latitude.  I was asked numerous times if I think that this means the end of such services as Brightkite.   Heck no, not right now!!  Google Latitude has a long way to go everyone.  A simple map mashup against a location is not a cool service.  I am not saying that Google couldn't dedicate the resources to grow this product, but I think the goals are also different in what the two intend to do.  I started whipping up a chart that is far from complete:
Account name
requires Google only accounts
you pick a name, any email
Web client access
Blackberry client access
iPhone client access
mobile web client access
Google Earth integration (weird Google doesnt have it)
Twitter integration
Guess my location
Business name lookup (Google should own this area)
Upload photos about location
Follow a stream of people
Build placemarks (future check-ins and history)
Pubic and private placemarks
See check in history
Get friend location via email
Get friend location via SMS
Query friend location
Query who is at a location
Get notified when someone is nearby
Set range for nearby notifications
Watch a live checkin & comment 'wall' for an area
Twitter integration
Multiple layers of privacy
FireEagle integration (from Yahoo)

So what do I take from this?  Google Latitude is a new product with the Google name that could grow in the future.  Brightkite already kicks it's arse with features.  I don't think I even covered them all.  So add me in both locations from the links below and let's compare and share.
Google Latitude

by Chris Miller at 12:39:51 PM on Thursday, February 5th, 2009
The buzz on Google Latitude it hot, and much of it is attitude about sharing locations.  Where have all these people been?  Location sharing is not a new topic or event.  Brightkite and others have been doing it well, as that is all they do.  And building services around it.  What seems to be the focus of everyone's posting is the sharing of your location.  One thing that Latitude does not do yet, is store your previous locations.  Meaning they have not built a service around your trends yet.  So let's get into privacy and stalking shall we?

- I am hearing huge amounts of concerns about sharing your location.  Forget location services for a second,  many of us say where the heck we are all day via Twitter, blogs and other tools.  Your privacy is as open, closed, exact or wide as you decide.  Do you honestly think I do not know what city you are in?  Do you honestly think I could not find more of your profile information and piece it together?  You control your own settings, when Latitude updates and to what extent you share.   Latitude offers you the ability to share, set or hide your location.  

Inside of Google maps there is 2 features,  "My Location" and Latitude.  The cool part that many are missing is that they can be enabled or disabled independently of each other.  My Location uses Google maps to provide approximate location services.  Latitude takes it to the next step by sharing this information with friends that you have specified, or the public.  My Location also does not associate anything about where you are with an account name or phone number.

The whole idea is being aware of what information you are sharing and to whom so you do not lead to stalking or accidental run-ins you never wanted.  The accuracy of where you are depends on how you enter or obtain the location
  • Hand enter an address - well you give them the exact location and it is shared to those you let see exact addresses.  Not help below on giving city only access to some
  • Hand enter a city - well everyone gets a city location
  • Wifi - it will use the nearest access point you can connect to and it knows the source.  One of the fun ones about this is that you could go to a Harrah's hotel in one city and it uses their network out from Vegas.  So you go from being in one city to the next in seconds.
  • My Location - it will use the good old cell phone tower triangulation technique.  The more towers it can see, the better the accuracy.
  • GPS - well how good is your line of sight to the satellite?  There you go

- This is an entirely different beast.  While you could hide your exact location for a specific friend, if they are stalking you they shouldn't be a friend in the first place.  But let us assume that you do not know you have a freaky person watching your every move and hoping to be in the same place as you "accidentally".  You have now entered SocialStalking land. and privacy rules on location services from Google Latitude.  You can move anyone at any time to city level awareness only.  Go into your friends list - more info - options -and change them to city level.  This gives you the best of both worlds.

If you are sharing exact location across the public stream or  they  are a friend, they can get directions to your location as well as cal a phone number listed that you have shared out.

- Share where you are, be more transparent.  But be damned aware of who you share it with and at what level.  Do not be afraid to limit a view to city only or not accept a request.  But for us early adopters that use 14 different location services already, stop the attitude.

by Chris Miller at 02:16:59 PM on Monday, February 2nd, 2009
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