Security, and Therefore Privacy, Remain Social Software Job 1!

John Battelle has an interesting post that emphasizes Security in Social Software 101.

BattellesearchbookFrom Battelle’s Search Book:

That bargain is this: we trust you to not do evil things with our information. We trust that you will keep it secure, free from unlawful government or private search and seizure, and under our control at all times. We understand that you might use our data in aggregate to provide us better and more useful services, but we trust that you will not identify individuals personally through our data, nor use our personal data in a manner that would violate our own sense of privacy and freedom.

That’s a pretty large helping of trust we’re asking companies to ladle onto their corporate plate.

Privacy and security is a complex subject.  I would venture, as someone who has gone through a bunch of software license negotiations, that most of the evil comes from clients.  Yes seriously. The vast majority of clients are ethical, but I have heard every request from prospects including "can you automatically make a copy of every inbound and outbound email of xyz person without their knowing" to "I want to install a keystroke logger on the IT managers PC. Can you help me?" and the old standby of "Y’all are great at SEO!  Do you do porn sites? (NO!)"

PiranahsMore recently we sent a fair license agreement to a prospect and they had it reviewed by some piranah lawyer who sent it back with carefully articulate points that basically suggested we just sign over rights to our own heartbeat to them now.  We refused to do business with them.

There are, perhaps, legitimate national security reasons to request data.  Yet Battelle’s point is "we trust you to not do evil things with our information." Evil is of course difficult to define, particularly when it comes to social software which is itself difficult to define.  Interestingly I find myself saying "you can’t define evil when it comes to social software but I know it when I see it."  Go figure.