I've been thinking about the nature of privacy a lot lately. I've long been associated with issues of preserving privacy. I helped with anti-Clipper Chip activism in the early 90s and supported various efforts to free cryptography such as PGP and other tools built with RSAREF from export control. However, my efforts in these areas wasn't really focused on privacy -- instead my focus was on issues of trust. I've always tried to be precise here.
A blog on social software, collaboration, trust, security, privacy, and internet tools by Christopher Allen.
I have now had CEOs of three different social networks send me emails asking me to compare Orkut to their service. I've not had a chance to dig deeply into good answers for each specific one, but I did have some general advice that I wanted to offer given my recent experiences with Orkut.com, and my evaluation and followup on various social networking services in December. Privacy First, be extremely careful about privacy issues.
Another Orkut user and I have confirmed a privacy hole in Orkut whenever you send a message to someone via Orkut. For instance, whenever I send a message to anyone in the system that is forwarded by email, in the message headers it will read: From: "Christopher Allen" <email@example.com> Reply-To: "Christopher Allen" <firstname.lastname@example.org; When someone reads the message in their email software, the "From:" line will be my name but the fake email of <member@orkut.
I've read of emails, Orkut messages, and blog postings since my post yesterday, so I thought I would share some with you. There have been a number of good posts, as well as user comments at Danah Boyd's blog Apophenia. Danah Boyd writes Correcting Marc Canter's Perception of My Views Marc - i don't believe that users should take these relationships more seriously; i believe that YOU should. Users will do whatever they damn well please, and i think that we should learn from them.
Like many others, I've been paying attention to Orkut in the last couple of weeks. I've answered more requests to be "friends" on Orkut then I have of any of the other half-dozen Social Networking Services I've tried, and I've looking at other people's friends to see if I know anyone. I've yet to ask someone to join Orkut that wasn't already a member, and I've been careful to not have anyone as a "friend" that I didn't know reasonably well and I thought knew me.