Scrobbling, Social Sites, and Privacy

We’ve all heard about Last.fm‘s music scrobbling service. Whenever you listen to a track – whether on the site, on your computer’s MP3 player, or even on your phone – the details immediately get uploaded to your profile on Last.fm. We now see more and more audio/video companies that try and implement this; even Facebook is getting into it with its new “real-time serendipity”.

Is this a new trend, or will people complain about how social sites are getting more and more involved in our personal lives?

You Don’t Have to Show the World

It seems to me that people who complain about this have no idea that all of these social sites have privacy controls. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s the concept: with privacy controls you can chose who gets to see your content (status updates, photos, check-ins and everything in between).

Don’t want your boss to see where you were last night? Just prevent him from seeing your update, even if he checks your profile. Another friend tagged you in an embarrassing photo? Simply remove your tag or tell Facebook to notify you if someone tagged you somewhere and only display it if you approve it. This is how I’ve set up my Facebook account and quite frankly I’ve never been in an awkward position where I had to explain my actions.

Every social site, from what I’ve seen, is built around one idea: “What are you doing?” or “What are you thinking?”. The fact that people actually say exactly what are they doing or what are they thinking is amusing. The fact that they complain that everyone, even people they don’t want to know, know this information is annoying.

I think that social websites try to make it easier to interact with our current friends. Let me give you an example: my best friend and I both have a Last.fm account. When we get tired of our own libraries, we go visit each other’s “recently played” library and see if we find new tracks to listen to. Another good example is when you go to a party with some of your friends. You all take pictures and you all have a Facebook account. Wouldn’t be easier to just upload the photos and only share them between you rather than your entire friends list?

But Facebook Is Stealing Your Data!

On the other hand there are people that think that privacy options are just for show. That these social websites “sell” all of our information to government officials. Can you please tell me why? Why would they do that? They are getting tons of revenue out of ads, and need their users’ trust to survive. Financially they have no reason to sell information.

I’m not saying that in desperate legal situations they couldn’t access the information. I’m sure that someone could use their Facebook status updates as an alibi in court and that the police can find out whether it checks out or not using IP tracking and GSM Tower Signals and what-not. I’m assuming this just because Google Maps and phone GPS’s can use your GSM Signal and give you a rough location. Presumably in court this type of evidence needs to be more accurate, but you see my point.

Private data is not that easily obtained by external companies. I once had someone calling with the Caller ID hidden and I went to my company to see if they can help me find who’s annoying me. They told that they only give that information to the police and the police can only get it if the person in question threatened my life. Obviously I wasn’t the police and I wasn’t threatened. Annoying, yes, but life can be annoying sometimes.

Final Thoughts

I hate it when people complain that their privacy is being violated. It is violated because they didn’t set it up properly. All social sites on the Internet, like Facebook, Twitter and Last.fm, are there to help us share our music, our photos, and things we do with our friends. If set up properly, you will not offend anyone and you will not be offended, nor will your privacy be violated.


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