Your life on an RSS feed

Social networks mean different things to different people. Some people want the world to know what they are doing NOW. So they blog, update their facebook status, use twitter to tell friends and stalkers what they’re thinking and dopplr to make sure everybody knows where they’re going.

Other people think social networks are a danger to privacy. A friend of mine wrote back in response to a linkedin invitation:

i regret to inform you that i don’t do social networking in any form.

This is a man that was there when the Internet started (and in fact laid some of its corner stones), and yet he refuses to take part in the most important revolution on the Internet in the last 10 years?

I used to think there was a third way to look at it. Use social networking in moderation: write what you want people to know, like where you work or what zip code you’re in and do that only because you have a use for it and not because you’re invited (ok, the last part is horseshit. I join things early so that I can reserve aviram as a username to the service. This strategy earned me aviram at gmail.com). For me, privacy was not an issue as long as you know what kind of information you put there. But now, it seems, things are getting out of hand.

I got an email from one of my linkedin connections with a link to a video sharing site called vidjar.com. This link was to videos tagged with his first name – not too uncommon, and you can probably imagine there were a few videos there with that tag.

But his problem was that on the sidebar, was the sentence:

[his full name] is now connected to Aviram Jenik

A deeper investigation showed that the sidebar included a widget that had an RSS feed into linkedin. This RSS feed somehow recorded the fact that he and I had connected. I’m not an expert in linkedin’s new API platform, so I’m not sure how that works – but I can understand how he was not happy to see that everybody on vidjar could see that he and I were connected via linkedin. This is information that only people directly connected to him or me should be able to see, and only when logged into linkedin. Here, it was viewable to the world – we verified it by looking at the flattened google cache.

An API issue? Maybe. But it definitely demonstrates the old saying that information you give, is no longer yours.

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