Digg: Your Privacy is an Illusion

When Digg came out with its new social features, some folks applauded the move while others despised it. Nearly four months later, the social features appear to be here to stay.

But are they secure?

As Digg becomes more of a social network and less of a social news network (or a hybrid that incorporates both elements), it has a lot of obstacles it needs to face. Besides major usability issues, duplicate stories submissions, and ads that literally scream at you, Digg has yet another issue to deal with: privacy.

Ben pinged me earlier today with a very interesting observation. It turns out that your shouts are not private after all, even if you keep them absolutely hidden. Your friends can see them. Actually, anyone can see them, even if they’re not logged in.

Allow me to illustrate. My current Digg settings prohibit anyone from seeing my Digg shouts.

Digg Shout Preferences

My shouts are blocked for everyone to see, and to ensure this, I’ve saved this selection multiple times.

When I go to my profile, Digg makes a clear assertion that I want my shouts kept private. But look at that red arrow.

Digg Shout Preferences

Simply click on that arrow and get access to any shouts, even if the users turned it off. Don’t believe me? Click on this link.

Digg Shout Wall beyind Privacy Preferences

Oops!

I notice that this is only the case for some accounts (but not all). In my observations, 3 of 5 profiles showed the shout wall behind a “Sorry! XXX has decided to keep their shouts private” message. I’m sure that means that it’s a big problem for many people, which means it’s still a problem even though it doesn’t affect everyone. In the meantime, you should be wary of allowing anything personal sent to you by any individuals from being made public, such as email addresses you haven’t put on your public profile, screen names, and other identifiable information that you’d rather keep to yourself. If you must, check your shout wall on another browser where you’re not logged in. Delete whatever shouldn’t be there regularly, or just disable shouts altogether.

Hopefully Digg will start addressing the aforementioned issue in addition to the other usability issues that plague the system. It’s much more important to make the usability experience more pleasurable — but for some reason, that just doesn’t seem to be on their agenda lately. I think this is one of those issues that needs to be addressed in addition to the customer service issues before they actually sell.

Update: Jay Adelson of Digg chimed in on the Digg submission and informs us that it’s fixed. Indeed it is. I have to thank Digg for quickly addressing and resolving this problem, though I hope you still have the other concerns your users have addressed on your agenda!

Tamar Weinberg is a hustler and juggler. She is the VP of Marketing at Ruxly Creative, a creative marketing agency. She's the Director of Sales at Internet Marketing Ninjas, a 100+ employee search engine marketing agency located in upstate New York. She also rocks global sales at financial media publication Wall St. Cheat Sheet. Finally, she is the Chief Strategy Officer of Small Business Trends. Oh wait, and she's also the community manager at Namecheap. Yeah, like a boss.

18 Comments

  • [...] Hat tip to Tamar of Techipedia for helping me investigate this one. She’s also covering the problem in her post Digg, Your Privacy is an Illusion. [...]

  • [...] 11th, 2008   |   News & Links At least on Digg, apparently. Ben and Tamar are reporting this morning on the lack of privacy with Digg’s “shout” [...]

  • January 11, 2008

    Yani

    Only if Kevin get free from sucking others while keeping his thumb in his bottom, how are thing supposed to work?
    One after another top Digg user is getting banned but does that make a difference? No it wont. Before these people leave their position or ranks other like hungry wolves are waiting to take over that place. These are nothing but mad army of Kevin who would do anything to be in top 100 digg user list.
    Kevin one fine morning is going to wash off his hands with digg by taking a few 100 millions & the digger will be left to stroke their own balls.
    Some are back stabber who got on Digg team & left the friend off & what next?
    We come to know Tamar is also on pay roll of Digg?
    One thing is cool about all this, in all the controversy you are deriving the best mileage. Hats off to you Tamar.

  • January 11, 2008

    Kelly

    haha! I noticed this awhile ago. I thought it was hilarious that you could read private shouts on some profiles and I thought everyone knew the option was there. I didn’t really think it was a big deal. I figure if you want private communication, go to IM. I mean really, what needs to be private on a digg shout anyway?

    Plus, the privacy is only one way (incoming only). You can go to any profile..history and shouts sent…and see any shout sent by that user. Unless this is a bug too…and will be corrected? I just went to yours, Tamar ;)

  • January 11, 2008

    Tamar Weinberg

    Well, they fixed one part but not the other. That’s great. ;)

  • January 11, 2008

    Jay Adelson

    To answer your question, we definitely have the other user concerns on our agenda. Now you say “fixed one part but not the other…” Can you be more specific?

    Thanks!

    -Jay

  • January 11, 2008

    Tamar Weinberg

    Hey Jay,

    You have no idea how appreciative I am that you actually have written here on my blog. You know I have the best intentions and I’m glad that you’re taking a proactive stance to address our concerns.

    Sorry about the confusion with regards to my previous statement. I was responding to Kelly who says that the privacy is still one way. I suppose that brings me to a feature request (since it doesn’t seem to exist right now): is there any way to hide the shouts that people send? I don’t want anyone but the intended recipient to see shouts, for example. Right now, you can see all mine regardless of being logged in or out. I’d prefer to disable that, since it’s still a “security” concern, at least for me.

    By the way, feel free to contact me in the future should you need any feedback. I’d be a lot more comfortable addressing these concerns with you before they hit a blog medium, but from my recent experience and no response from the team, I thought that Digg customer service folk just disappeared. I would be more than happy to work with you in the future to make Digg a better product.

  • January 11, 2008

    Yani

    “I would be more than happy to work with you in the future to make Digg a better product.” Its looking like you forgot to forward you CV to Jay! LOL.

  • January 11, 2008

    Tamar Weinberg

    I think my blog and passion for Digg speaks for itself, Yani. ;)

  • January 11, 2008

    Jay Adelson

    Tamar,

    Of course, we’re happy to work with you… I’ll get you some email addrs offline.

    Meanwhile though… You have the ability in your profile to hide shouts your receive…Do you mean to hide shouts that you send?

    -Jay

  • January 11, 2008

    Tamar Weinberg

    Jay, yes. Thanks for fixing incoming shouts. I suppose it’d be great if we can also hide outgoing shouts if possible. Granted, some users prefer to keep their incoming shouts public and I usually exercise caution when shouting to those who do, but I’d rather not allow everyone to see all my outgoing shouts via this link: http://digg.com/users/tamar/history/shouts

    Thanks!

  • January 11, 2008

    Jay Adelson

    I understand what you’re asking for.

    I think the problem was ours for not communicating our intent… Shouting, as the name describes, was supposed to be public communication. We wanted people to be able to manage their own page and how it is displayed, but it’s true, by doing so it probably gives a false sense of privacy with shouts.

    What you really are asking for is a private messaging system, which was never the intent of shouts. It was more like writing on a wall in Facebook, or a public post…

    We’re looking into a private messaging system as a feature. Meanwhile, either we need to be more clear on the privacy levels you’re describing, add more privacy, or do something…because it’s clearly confusing people.

    Stay tuned.

  • January 11, 2008

    Tamar Weinberg

    Thanks Jay. I shall. :)

  • January 11, 2008

    BarbaraKB

    Tamar -

    Keep at ‘em. You know digg loves you ;-)

    -BarbaraKB

  • January 11, 2008

    Chris Winfield

    Great to see this back & forth….

  • January 12, 2008

    Erica DeWolf

    Wow. This post makes a great point that I never noticed before! As Kelly had said, I don’t think its a huge concern that “private” messages aren’t very private…but bugs like this make Digg less of a reliable source. Successful software should aim for NO bugs (but as we all know, technology sometimes makes this difficult and near impossible).

    Great post…thanks for the info!

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