How Spying On Your Friends Causes Reevaluation of Endorsed Content

Last month, I wrote about the ease of FriendFeed to spy on your friends. In other words, I can check someone’s Friendfeed page and get any information I want about them, including when they are actively engaged in social media activities and how much of a priority social media is to them in their online habits and information consumption.

While users can opt to have private feeds, I strive for transparency and don’t mind if my content is public. I don’t mind keeping the door to my interests open and allowing people to get to know me or to know about the content that interests me.

However, in the past few months, I’ve been running into content that doesn’t necessarily fit in with my interests. Is it misleading to endorse content that someone pitches to you when you don’t necessarily agree with it (or have no interest in it) and then have it publicly available on your feed for all to see? Now that Friendfeed aggregates every social site you use (for the most part — they’re still missing some), anyone can see that you’ve just thumbed up that article on how to find porn behind a WebSense firewall even though you may have done it as a favor to your friend. (Or maybe not.)

With Friendfeed, your information is now more public than ever. You may be trying to be as open as possible, but some of the information you’re thumbing up or voting upon simply isn’t you, or at least it’s something you don’t want the world to know. FriendFeed is just another tool to let the world know who you really are on top of Facebook and LinkedIn (and perhaps your blogs). At this point, beyond your deepest darkest secrets that you don’t publish online, there may be nothing necessarily left (or at least required) for people to create a whole profile about you.

As a result, I’ve changed my behavior on what I vote upon. I’m overly cautious about what I promote because of the possible misconceptions it may cause. Have you changed the way you engage in social media because of the perceptions you may create, perhaps wrongfully (or rightfully)?

FriendFeed Aggregation Concerns

If you have, you aren’t alone — but how many of you actually are really cognizant that what you do online can be tracked back to you at any time and is now made all the more easier with tools like Friendfeed?

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.

16 Comments

  • May 1, 2008

    Shankar Ganesh

    I was actually thinking of this, but still I do vote for everything that friends send me. Should change this behaviour sooner rather than later. :(

  • May 1, 2008

    Derek

    I haven’t been using Friendfeed but have gotten bitten a couple times for endorsing or being associated with questionable profiles and/or content. It has made me reevaluate what/who/why I do some things and go back into my history where I am active (I am afraid to look at my Twitter archive :-)).

    “…anyone can see that youve just thumbed up that article on how to find porn behind a WebSense firewall even though you may have done it as a favor to your friend. (Or maybe not.)” – thanks for a good chuckle to start the morning!

  • May 1, 2008

    Harry Hoover

    Even without FriendFeed you should use discretion. If you use Facebook aps for StumbleUpon, etc. you are telling everyone what you are thumbing up. I come down on the side of translucency instead of transparency.

  • May 1, 2008

    Our Monmouth

    Internet privacy concerns always make me think twice before I click. Frankly, opt in social media does not bother me more than the data government and corporate America is silently collecting.

    Thanks Tamar.

  • May 1, 2008

    pmctosh

    Hmmm, I guess it’s time to really consider all the friends requests regarding submissions and a helping hand a little harder than I have been.
    Between FriendFeed and Facebook, everyone is looking into your backyard.

  • May 1, 2008

    Charlie Anzman

    Hey Tamar. While some people simply don’t have to worry about this, others should. It’s been a long running ‘issue of education’ with Facebook etc. Aspiring kids in college, teachers, etc. “not reading the book” first.

    Can be devastating. Can also be extremely productive if used properly …. and FUN!

  • May 1, 2008

    Tamar Weinberg

    The difference here versus Facebook is that Friendfeed is really your one-stop-shop to learn more about your friends’ behaviors. If you want to use Facebook to know about what content your friend likes, you’d have to specifically navigate to his profile. This is no longer the case when using Friendfeed. I just have to go to my Friendfeed home page to see what people are saying, as it’s in one single location.

  • May 1, 2008

    Jacob

    With FriendFeed, anything you share becomes a part of your personal brand. Even if you shared your social media profiles on your blog/website in the past, FriendFeed forces your actions across all social networks upon your friends and makes them much more public. You can no longer behave one way on digg and another way in StumbleUpon.

    As more and more social interaction gets pulled together on the Web, I think people will lose a little bit of freedom and privacy. Your friends in one social network may not be on the same wavelength as your friends on another, but you now show both groups what you are doing online.

    In a way, FriendFeed makes the Internet more like the “real world” where you have to think about what your actions say about you. Some people have avoided making that call on the Internet thus far through avatars, but that won’t fly with FriendFeed.

  • May 1, 2008

    Tamar Weinberg

    Brilliantly stated, Jacob. :)

  • May 7, 2008

    Sumesh

    The internet’s a bad place for privacy and anonymity anyway.

    Social networks are not much of a concern, unless you’re talking what you’re not supposed to.

    Digg’s quite good in that respect – burying posts will not be revealed publicly. Mixx’s a criminal in that aspect ;)

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  • June 19, 2008

    veronicaromm

    I never thought that someone might want to spy on my activity, but I guess that I am simply naive. I guess I just cant imagine going to the trouble, I am too lazy to follow someone. However if they did want to they could certainly pick up patterns. I spend most of my time on SU so I am not hard to find. Great post.

  • August 23, 2008

    Christopher

    I left the german equivalents of LinkedIn and Facebook altogether. In one case because of privacy issues. What I think is the problem here: gathering information is not the big thing. That’s easy to do. Beeing an aggregator, heck, my old email-inbox can be that for me. To difficult thing todo, the thing that would add value to the user, would be making distinctions easy. Like organizing your contacts in something better than “groups”.

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  • September 24, 2009

    Mickey Mouse

    Thank God we still live in a world where you can get internet privacy, even if it comes at a price. Since we the people have been deemed unworthy to maintain our own internet privacy, what has the world come to?

  • April 23, 2010

    linksys

    i am worry of my privacy a lot.The transaction in internet is very risk.

    Editor’s note: As an FYI, I removed your link because of your desire to ignore my blog policy and not use your real name, instead opting to rank for some Linksys wireless router page. I actually send people to http://www.linksys.com, fyi.

    Nice try!