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You always pay for Social Network services

October 9, 2013

The norm for social networks is that they present the idea they are free. But they are not of course. You pay by helping them collate a profile of you. Not just with your profile itself, but by how you interact with their service overtime, which adds to the identification of who you are. The longer you interact with a social network, the more new ‘features’ you use, the more information you provide, the more accurately the social network provider can define you. For some this does not cause them concern. For others it causes disenfranchisement with social networks, which is a shame, because they are incredibly useful tools. But what parent has not blanched at the thought of their teenage son or daughter opening up a Facebook account? Some like me deny them the right to do so, others cave in to peer pressure despite their trepidations and others are more than happy to be able to monitor their child’s online behaviour by requiring their child to friend them, despite the fact that the monitoring itself adds to their own profile! Facebook have finally admitted your data is the price of admission. Even Google has claimed that users have no legitimate expectation of privacy! when a service is provided for free.


The claim is that the data is ‘only’ used for marketing purposes, or that if it is shared it is anonymised. But at what point does a detailed view of your life online identify you even when the name has been removed?  Real anonymisation is really hard, and expensive, to do, and it gets more expensive as you aggregate (bring together) more data  The more expensive it is to do the more likely it won’t be done right by entities seeking to commercialise your profile.  The law lags this commercial monetisation of your data  woefully.
There is no such thing as a secure system. Facebook has been hacked more than once. In the last admitted breach they ‘only’ lost the profiles of 6 million users! There is an internet mafia that truly understands the value of this data when in the hands of those unconstrained by law.  The only real defence is to minimise your personal data and meta-data.

So do we have to pay by providing a profile of ourselves that can be sold onto marketers? We think not.

Since the time Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter and other social networks have started there are two truly ground-shaking changes in the market that if leveraged  can turn the personal profile commercial land grab around in favour of giving users control of their data and thus their profile.

The first is the emergence of the app purchase model.  When seen as a micro payment mechanism it delivers a method to provide revenue to a social network provider that does not require the service provider to be seeking ever greater information on you, at a price less than a pint of beer.  In fact, it can reverse the profile collation trend and  become meritorious to only store data that you absolutely need to use the social network to deliver real socialisation value.

The second is the incredibly rapid decrease in costs of server technology in the Cloud. The market pressures on cloud companies to drive down costs, combined with the benefits of scale being returned to users in a price competitive market, means that server costs are now orders of magnitude cheaper than when the incumbent social networking companies were first formed and had to invest in their own server technology.

If you couple a meritorious desire to minimise profile collation and storage, with the massively reduced cloud service cost reductions and then deliver these benefits through a micro-payment mechanism you have the tools needed to re-shape social networking and put users back in the driving seat of control of their data. At least we think so.  Read our “Your Data” commitment to understand how we are doing this.

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One Comment
  1. Interesting article…………

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