Monetizing Social Networks – What Part Does Selling User Data Play

Filed under: Social Networks

Selling personal data is a long time method of generating secondary income for businesses. Realtors, Telephone Companies, Banks and Credit Card Companies and even local pizza places that collect information about their customers sell lists of directory and in depth information without our realizing.

Social Networks are no stranger to collecting and releasing this same information. Often the data is anonymous but most of the time people are happy to provide details about themselves that they wouldn’t normally release and in turn this information gets sold to businesses willing to pay for it.

Many of the firms are marketing companies that just want to send you some coupons but others have a darker side and use the information to compile profiles which then can be sold to anyone with the money to pay.

Did you use your mother’s real maiden name when you signed up for that email account… what about the last 4 numbers of your social or your real library card id number?

Not only are you releasing directory information you are also displaying pictures of yourself and family, describing your political and social views and getting into long rants about how social networks make money from information we provide them.

The question is not if this information is being disseminated but who might want to know which users on twitter follow Sarah Palin or Barack Obama…. Who are the people on facebook that live in Louisiana and also talking about the BP Oil Spill???? Who is talking about their mountain climbing trip on MySpace who also filed a injury claim at work?

There is no real limit and one of the fastest growing markets for the purchasing of Social Network data is Employee Recruitment and outsourced hiring agencies.

If you are an employer wouldn’t you like to know who is going out parting every night or Tweeting during work hours or any other number of things? Dam Right You Would and if you are paying your employees tens or hundredes of thousands of dollars a year including benefits and exposing your precious clients to these fools … maybe you have the right.

I happen to know a young school teacher she is in her 20’s and basically starting her career. Over a conversation she told me that her fourth grade students found her Facebook page and began contacting her.

I told her to immediately stop using her real name for personal conversations. Everyone knows that these things get around fast. If she was to take a personal picture in her bathing suit even if it was modest … everyone would be talking about it.. and it gets much worse if she was to open her mouth about any political idea… considering her husband is in the military there is a real chance that could happen.

Just like her there should be limits for all of us. If we know we will be talking about matters that are personal then we should protect that information.

You should never give correct information when signing up for any online service. If your birthday is March,22 1985  then signup with a different but similar date… I am not saying lie about being over 18 …. but why would FaceBook need your exact birthday or Mothers Name… It is just not reasonable to provide this information to anyone other then the few companies like banks, doctors or the government and then only when you know there is a privacy agreement they will be held to.

But this is how data mining works… If they can pay a social network then they get easy access… if not then they simply write bots that harvest the content.

It is getting harder and harder to find outlets for free speech on the internet that is not very easily tracked back to you. Even google that is suppose to be in favor of protecting these rights now requires the use of a telephone to signup for an account… and then once that is done they can track back all of your activity on Google, youtube and any other site that displays Google Content or uses a google service like Anaylitics …

I am not saying Google does do this .. but the requirement of a cellphone to get an email account really begs the idea that they are at the very least compiling or designing ways to compile all of this information.

So, I suggest that if you feel the need to use your real name on a social network which is really really stupid… don’t include data in your profile that is real.. and don’t make references that can be tracked back to you… that is the very base minimum…