Facebook, MySpace and Gmail – the new axis of evil?

In a column in Dagens Nyheter yesterday, Hanne Kjöller writes about her worries regarding integrity online, a hot topic these days when we spend so much time on the web. And I agree, we should devote more time and effort to discuss who can do what with the digital traces of our online activities. Pär Ström is the guiding star in this debate.

Kjöller chooses Facebook, MySpace and Gmail as her “axis of evil” and suggests that consumers should consider to boycott these services because we can’t control how our personal information is used. And obviously we need to be careful what kind of information we share online. Kjöller writes “Too old? Probably. I don’t see the point with the website Facebook. But there are others who do. Business men and American terrorist hunters for example.”

By the way, isn’t that a strange phenomenon? Leading journalists that write negative articles about new media technologies that they don’t understand, but understand well enough to bash on a prime location in the paper. I suggest that you either get a better understanding of the technology/service/website first, or refrain from writing about it all together.

Anyway, I think that the age factor might, unintentionally, be where she hits the nail. According to a study by Pew Internet “two-thirds of teens with profiles on blogs or social-networking sites have restricted access to their profiles in some fashion, such as by requiring passwords or making them available only to friends on an approved list.” In other words, young people who are savvy online networkers are aware of the risks with being too open and act accordingly. Not that I’m entirely conviced that it’s enough to protect their integrity, but still.

Kjöller continues to discuss integrity issues and says that she doesn’t like that “the information on Facebook is used for commercial purposes”. Well, we probably need to accept that companies use information about their members to tailor marketing efforts, I’m sure that Dagens Nyheter does too. About a month ago, Resumé claimed that DN bought a community system from a company called Josh, with the purpose of building a community of their own. I don’t think that the paper will do that with any other purpose than a commercial one.

Either way, integrity issues are important and I welcome Kjöller’s suggestion about a Minister for Integrity, or some other political solution that helps protect us from “Big Brother”. But I don’t think the solution is to stay clear of all these services, but take the positive sides and deal with the negative. Just look at the number of Facebook users who signed up for Anton Abele’s group against violence, currently more than 52,000.

Note: I should probably reveal, before someone asks, that I am a frequent Facebook user, rarely visit my MySpace page, and I don’t have a Gmail account (don’t feel that I need one).

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