Online trust

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.

2 Responses to “Online trust”

  1. There’s probably a lot more that could be said about this, but I think you set the tone just right. However, I still believe that organizations are inherently incompetent, and couldn’t plan a Big Brother operation if they tried. I’d be willing to bet that the social networking site had no idea who they were inviting to join…kinda like George W Bush giving that commendation to Tookie.

  2. Woon Chin Says:

    hey, i m a postgrad research student and i came across your blog by random search.. i m wondering whether could i invite you to participate for a short q&a at my blog? the answers given will serve for academic purposes. i know it sounds like a long essay, but trust me.. one or two sentences is fine..if you are interested, you can just write something there.. you don’t have to follow the format if you wish.. as i also do not hope that my potential participants to write essays for me either. if you could spread the news to your friends after seeing it, that would be great. your participation will be highly appreciated. thanks. 🙂

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