Privacy on Web 2.0 Applications: The Human Factor

Theoretically, GroupTweet was the killer application which was meant to turn Twitter, the rising microapplication, from something small to a giant monster. Twitter, until now, was a micro-social-networking-site or a micro-blog. Twitter enabled any user to open a page where he can write up to 140 characters and pass his message to the nation.

Each person chose who to follow and who will follow him, so de-facto a social network was created from followers and followees.. GroupTweet came to supply Twitter with what Prologue was trying to enable, a short group blog for everyone to read

And how was it done? In order to use the service, you needed to open a new twitter account and add its details to GroupTweet; afterwards, any message sent to the account was publish as a micropost in twitter, a full group blog.

However, one sunny day in Tel-Aviv made it all wrong, Orli Yakuel, a leading blogger in the Web 2.0 field, found out that all her personal messages appeared as posts in her twitter account; The reason? Yakuel checked GroupTweet on her personal twitter instead of opening a new account for GroupTweet.

It’s quite a problem with the ‘Web 2.0’ standpoint which views web-based services as Applications. No one will ever install software on his computer without reading about it, knowing what it does or even hear about it. However, in the Web 2.0 Era, Installing an application requires only a click, so it seems natural to install everything to experiment (without knowing what the application does); We don’t ask ourselves whether the website collects private data, who is behind him or what it does anyway.

For example, most of useless Facebook applications which made Facebook alive, are there because Facebook’s architecture allows 3rd parties to withdraw private data and doesn’t require users to register 3rd party applications installed. In this situation, when it is so easy to install applications, privacy matters will appear; even in an application with the utmost good will, Facebook still passes private information to the application and it can utilize it prior to any users’ knowledge of what the application does.

Web 2.0 is a material dialectical perception: it allows any person to interact in the democratic discourse and create his own internet content; it also, like any technology, is quite dangerous when not used carefully. Like any saw, electrical appliance and stereo deserve an operating manual, so do Web 2.0 applications, even if they have shiny, big and simple buttons.

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