Facebook made them do it?

In the late nineties Friends Reunited got a reputation for being a marriage wrecker. A huge number of members, used the service to get in touch with old boyfriends or girlfriends, many leading to affairs and often divorce. The current trend for social networking sites like Facebook however is far worse, increasingly being linked with crimes like murder.

Earlier this week I commented on the BBC’s website article, 34 year Wayne Forrester from Croydon was jailed for life after he brutally murdered his wife on 18 February. What had Emma Forrester done to deserve this horrific death?… she had changed her relationship status on facebook from married to single, following their break up.

At the time I said ‘well it had to happen sooner or later, the first facebook murder’, it would seem I was wrong, this was not the first facebook murder, just the latest.

There are examples all over the world, where social networking sites have been involved to some degree in murders or iolent crime: Sarah Elston, 22, a talented young Brisbane artist in austalia in June 2008, was murdered after arranging to meet a former boyfriend on facebook. Martine Vik Magnussen’s, the Norwegian socialite’s body was found buried under rubble in a London appartment. Tracey Grinhaff’s body was found in a shed in the back garden of the family home she shared with her husband, Gary, and their two young daughters, aged 14 and four. Gary Grinhaff apparently murdered his wife,42, before killing himself, the reason? she had updated her profile on the social networking site, Facebook, telling friends she was “currently splitting” from her husband

But murder is not the only concerning when it comes to the internet, there are a number of links between websites, blogs, and social networks and suicides, in fact if you search google on ‘myspace suicides’ you’ll get over 7 million results from all over the world.

There are of course other issues of Social Networking on murder investigation, in many counties it is illegal to name murder suspects below a certain age, this was relatively simple when it came to the press, they knew the law and stuck to it, but bloggers aren’t so easily dealt with. The authorities in Toronto, Ontario had to work together with facebook to remove numerous references to murder suspects posted after the death of 14-year-old Stefanie Rengel, earlier this year.

I don’t think necessarily that Facebook directly lead to these murders, or that they would not have occurred if Facebook was not around, but perhaps that Social Networking was an accelerant. Social networks, make our private lives far more public, than they would normally be and allow us to see what is happening around us much faster than word of mouth, (although my Auntie Wendy, who doesn’t have a computer seems to gives it a good run for its money). People are often quite paranoid after a break up, and the transparency of Social Networks can allow this to get way out of hand.

Facebook made them do it?

Can Friends Reunited Really Make A Comeback?

Despite recently dropping their annual charge, recent statistic from zdnet show that friend reunited still lost 45% of its market share in social networking, since jan 07. Once the dominant force in social networking, Friends reunited are now reported to be the fifth largest social network in the UK having a market share of just 1.55% in June 08. While the market for social networking is still growing it is now entirely dominated by facebook with a huge 45% of the market, all four of the other competitors have lost market share over the same period.

Friends reunited’s faq page stats “We have removed the single greatest barrier to increased communication between our members.” Stating as many as 87 per cent of messages on the old Friends Reunited were never sent because of the cost of membership and that was a great shame, so they have dropped the fee to encourage greater interaction between members but still with the same level of privacy that they enjoyed before. Unlike other social networks, where users are able to share their contact details, friends reunited say they will still never reveal you personal email address.

But is this too little too late? A major factor in social networking is being on the same social network as your friends and having enough content to keep it interesting. Facebook have always been the masters of this, they have been allowing developers to create a wide variety of applications for a long time and the variety and quality of applications already available is fantastic. Facebook have recently adopted a new look, which has generated a lot of extra work for developers which they have been criticized over but they are continually evolving and staying on top of their game. Recently they have introduced facebook connect in a bid to retain the all important data at the centre of their social networking empire.

Although Friends reunited have 19 million signed up members they have a lot of catching up to do if they want to survive, but are they capable of making the change and will they need to shift away from their roots in reuniting old school friends or will that remove their core benefit

Can Friends Reunited Really Make A Comeback?

Facebook Ads

I have been on facebook for a couple of years now i guess, so the novelty has wore off a little. To be honest  for the past few months i’ve check it from time to time, but not look at it properly. So i hadn’t really noticed how targeted the Ads had become, until a couple of days ago.

I’d sort of noticed that i was getting a few adventure holiday and adventure sports ads, but just that was pretty generic, not not related to the fact that in my profile i’d mentioned things like fell running. I also had noticed all the ads for jobs in IT, but not really thought about how this was targetting me specifically being an IT manager. What really made me realize just how target it was getting was when i noticed a friends status said she’d torn a ligament, on sending her a message to wish her a speedy recovery, i saw that another comment was had she enjoyed her trip to Edinburgh, as soon as i went back to my home page an ad popped in for chiropractor in Edinburgh,  then another for days out in edinburgh.

So this was not just looking at my profile data, but also data on other peoples profile i visited. Kinda make you wonder how far it goes what about data in inbox messages is it reading that to.

And then comes the question of what else is my data being used for, i look a look at the info on what the advertisers get in the way of feedback, and apparently the demographic data they receive is very high quality, so age, sex, geographic location etc, etc, etc.

I was previously aware that signing up to facebook, gave away many of my freedoms for example if i post a photo, i am in effect giving facebook the rights to that photo, and similarly if i post a comment, facebook also get lots of right to keeping that comment whether i change my mind and want to remove it or not. But i was less aware that what i did on my profile would affect what adverts other users would see. And similarly what profiles i Viewed would affect what ads were shown on my facebook pages.

Facebook Ads

Securing Web 2.0

As Web 2.0 starts to migrates from the realm of consumer market to the realm of the business, there are some serious concerns for security.

This week a security forum was set up to look at the challenges of web 2.0 for business. So far 10 major companies have signed up to the forum including credit suisse, reuters and standard charter.

There is increasing pressure on businesses to allow disbursed groups of employees, clients, suppliers and partners communicate via, instant messaging, social networks and document sharing utilities.

The question is can these types of communication be controlled. Training will be a key factor. Educating employees about the dangers of social engineering and the need for security and encryption is crucial.

Business could of course create there own social networking sites, in which they have far more control, but due to the nature of social networking this may not succeed, users don’t want to have to post there current status on lots of different sites as that kind of defeats the object.

For small businesses too there are many dangers of web 2.0 and social networking/blogging in particular, not just the arguable loss of productivity, but also disclosure of confidential information and potential for grooming of staff, not to mention the problems of liable if an individual makes unjustifiable statements from a corporate account.

Securing Web 2.0