|What’s New Between the Social Networks?|
Guillermo Ramón Adames y Suari - PVNN
September 08, 2010
Related article: The Very Last In Technology...
This article will not deal with the danger/security implicit or indirect of your operations in the social networks. It deals with what is done by the administrators of the social networks and their links between them: this involves particularly facebook, twitter, hi5 and a “newcomer” google and a bit further away Yahoo! mail. In other words, the social networks and email providers, are “socializing with our own data behind our backs”.
First let me explain about google: How come a search engine like google is getting into the social networks? The answer lies in WHAT google is doing with their email system. A bit of history: google started as the fastest search engine available. Then they opened their email system. The email service provided for by google turned out to be excellent. Google stayed on that platform for a while, while developing other applications. Then it came the turn of gmail. Their storage space kept in growing and growing. Today you can have some 100GB of storage with an email account in google. At first everybody used gmail simply as an alternative to other email accounts. Then that became a fashion: Everybody had to have various email accounts in various servers: hotmail, Yahoo! Gmail and so many others.
Like most people, nobody seemed to care of the amount of information that represents a person’s email archives altogether. We kept in sending and receiving jokes, pictures and you name it. Then it came google chat: you could chat through the net with somebody on line (basically in a gmail account). Then google came out with a very useful tool: you and some other people could open the very same file at the same time. One person would be the “master” of the file and the others were “invited” collaborators. The “invited” could be invited as long as they had a gmail account. Once they were invited and accepted by the “master”, they could suggest modifications of the master file. I used this possibility with my students and as a group, we improved a number of texts and lectures. Only after approval of the “master” or proprietor of the original file. It is still available.
Then it came google apps which allowed you to create and administer your web site and/or your blog. Also Picassa saw the light. An archive containing all you ever dreamed as a storage space for photos. Somewhere along, the Calendar and Groups applications came up with all flexibilities and reminders. At this point what is the difference in usability of google and all the other social networks? Today you also get an email via facebook, or gmail or a tweet. So? Isn’t Google performing the very same activities that a Social Network? The original conception of all of them, was different and they have converged to the very same type of service: The basic difference is that in social networks (all) your email is open to everybody who you have approved to be your friend.
Very recently, gmail came out with a new service: “Priority mail”: gmail analyses “your” mail, with “your” contacts and with “your” email contents and “your” frequency of contact (I suppose in a statistical fashion) to choose from the email received in your account, which ones will be part of the “Priority mail” inbox and which ones go to the “simple inbox”. Frightening: You have contacted so and so “x” number of times, then he goes to priority mail. If you have emailed about a topic for long time… it also goes to priority mail. It is simply now that we realize that whatever you have mailed has value for somebody else without your consent.
Here, it should be stated that many of us don’t know what the principles of marketing are. The type of studies and the type of data that generates your “client profile for x goods”. Google’s application ”translation” also records how often you use the translator, from which language and spots key words. Love letters, business topics, likes and political opinions. Frightening. Not that I have anything to hide: Political parties are a joke in Mexico. A very expensive joke.
Yahoo! Has been following a similar path as gmail and the chat option is also available. Calendar and addresses are also available in Yahoo! And they are developing also other applications but they do not go as fast as google goes.
So: what is the difference between these applications? Simple presentation! You can access “your public” information when you enter facebook. Email is more “person-person”. Not everybody else sees what you sent as an email if it was not sent to you. There is not “common information for everybody” in an email account. You can see a picture of the person when you open facebook. You can see a picture on gmail when you place your mouse’s pointer on the email address of the person.
Twitter operates much the same way as facebook and Hi5, but it breaks down in hundreds of applications. Applications are available inside facebook and some others are inside Hi5 and Yahoo!. Not long from now, gmail and Yahoo! will have a shared information available through a button. Either you are in together with what you want to show or you are not. They will become (to your choice) a social network or a simple email service. For what I have heard, the “invite” button will become the “socialize” button and that will open the common information between email accounts.
So far the analysis of the evolution of the social networks. What about what those social networks are doing between them? This is the core material of this article. You might have noticed that what you see for any of those applications, has changed recently but you have not been informed.
Facebook is testing a procedure called “Open Graph” which operates the following way: if you as a facebook user connect yourself to a commercial site, all your confidential information stored in facebook is transmitted to the commercial site you consulted. Consider then gmail doing the same thing: they are structured in such a way that this operation represents millions of dollars for transmitting millions of profiles throughout. When you have an account in Yahoo! Or in gmail, they “suggest to you “ to import contacts from “another” email account, whichever account it might be.
Put yourself on the side of the email accounts: when they suggest to you that is because they have the info from all other email accounts with your name picture etc. It will sound like CSI but they have already matched your pictures and come out that you are the very same person as the one in the “other” accounts. Think also, if you send a C.V. it might also be scanned through computerized procedures. So all email accounts form all providers share common files for what they would claim:”it is for your good”, but they know everything about you.
Let’s go back to marketing but now think “cell phones” or “smartphones”. Phones describe your path of life: Telephones have a chip RFI (radio frequency identification) which transmits everybody you call to and tracks wherever you go. Like most of us, we have some music in those telephones so they can even get your musical preferences and be analyzed to see to which commercial profile you correspond (together what is stored in your email accounts, web pages etc.) and what can be your interests.
Do not be surprised that if you have music from Celine Dion in your cell phone to mention “any one artist” whenever there will be a new album by Celine… you might receive a somehow anonymous email “informing” you about a new Celine’s album or concert in your home town: they have your preferences from your internet connection they know which town you live on so a simple match and you receive an email. You might be surprised, but if you like Celine “who cares where it came from”.
If you call a golf club and in your emails contain the word “golf” or if you are invited to a “golf tournament” do not be surprised to receive an email promotion of clubs in your most used email account. The word “golf” has been repeated a number of times to denote an interest of preference.
The systems will include artificial intelligence: What does that mean? Not far from now, psychological patterns will analyze whatever your write. Matched with “your” key words. And with time you will be a “predictable” customer.
Guillermo Ramón Adames y Suari is a former electoral officer of the United Nations Organization. Contact him at gui.voting(at)gmail.com