Google+ or Facebook? Like choosing between the Devil or Satan.

Santafe.com - August 3, 2011

"...have fun with your social network just remember there are people out there ready to exploit your info and manage it accordingly..."

Lots of buzz lately about Google+ which is pumping up its hype muscles to try and beat Facebook at its own game. Given their dismal social networking offerings so far, they have plenty of mistakes to learn from and they may just do better this time, just through the law of averages.

But, just as in the tag line for the movie Aliens vs. Predator, whoever wins… we lose. Google seems to be trying to make available every service you can possibly think of to the web, but at a price. No, they don’t charge you for their services. Not directly. What they do is ‘mine’ for data through the services you use. Take G-Mail for example. They ‘parse’ your e-mails, that is they use a program to read your e-mail line by line and find key words about subjects that you seem to care about. If you write to your friends about how ‘awesome’ Justin Bieber is, you will start seeing more ads for his CDs, concert tickets, t-shirts or what have you along with ads for zit cream or Hot Topic. This is how they pay for your free service. Nothing wrong with it per se, but if you value your privacy you have to wonder what else they are taking from your e-mails. Not to sound like a conspiracy nut but it also raises the questions of who else can get their hands on those results or your e-mails. Of course short of setting up your own e-mail servers, which is a lot of trouble, you face that prospect anyway. Google isn’t setting up this social network site out of the goodness of their hearts either.

To be fair, Facebook does pretty much the same thing. They generate ad revenues from targeted ads based on who you’re friends are, who they ‘Like’ and who you ‘Like’. Facebook just recently partnered with Bing to start doing what Google has been doing all along, tweaking their search results and ads based on what they can get from your searches, only in Facebook they use your friends and likes. Here’s the big thing, though -- you can choose not to share that information with Facebook. Next time you log into a corporate Facebook page pay attention when that little screen pops-up and see exactly what you are sharing with the company just to sign up for coupons or a chance to win a t-shirt. Most of them ask for basic information which is fine if you want to share your name and your e-mail address (which they will use to send you spam) but then they want your list of friends and often much more. I don’t mind because I know a few of my so called ‘friends’ would throw me under the bus for a free smoothie and that’s okay because that’s who they are. But someday it may come back to haunt everyone.

Google Plus is following the standard Google formula and, like Gmail, when it was first announced, access is by invitation only for now. There has been no announcement on when everyone else gets to play with it, though. They did put a stop to invites a couple of days after the beta launch due to a high number of access requests.

Privacy is of high concern in the Information Age. There are already numerous sites that mine data from Facebook and other social media sites, and then advertise that you can find out anything about anyone. Without getting into specifics, that’s a whole other blog, they can. I’ve looked myself up and they get a lot of details even though I am very careful with sharing my info. So have fun with your social network, just remember there are people out there ready to exploit your info and manage it accordingly.