November 13, 2005
A well-known social networking site recently sent me an invitation to join their userbase, supposedly initiated by a former coworker of mine. I guess a lot of other people got these things too, and I was interested to see that the spokesperson for the company waved off criticism by claiming that my email was part of a “one-time mailing to people who were once invited but never joined the network”. I’m in a very good position to know that my former coworker did not invite me to (re)join the network after I quit it on August 31, 2004… so basically I’d have to conclude that the company in question is compounding their spamming by lying.
This reminds me of a dinner I recently had with a friend who was “convicted” of running a link farm by the judge, jury, and executioner that is Google. The Goog claimed they had discovered his malfeasances through some sort of super-intelligent artificial intelligence thingie… when in fact a well-known blogger had outed my friend a couple days earlier. Google of course consistently tries to maintain the claim that human hands never touch their index, when there is now a small mountain of evidence that they do. The interesting thing is that after this experience, my friend was now dubious of how Google was counting Adsense clicks.
I guess my point here is that Web businesses that deal in personal data really shouldn’t lie. Even a very small lie undermines their credibility to a vastly magnified extent — because all they’re ultimately selling is bits, and if you can’t trust the bits there’s no countervailing value to be offered. It seems like such an obvious thing, I feel sort of dumb saying it… but on the Internet, as the poet says, there’s always someone somewhere with a big nose who knows and who’ll trip you up and laugh when you fall.