If You Want My Trust, Give Me Control of my Data

Spock, the people search engine/social network that launched at Web 2.0 Expo, got many things right, but as Tim noted in a previous post, “This private beta of Spock exposes the tips of many icebergs, some of which have the power to sink one feature or another.” Looks like they’ve run smack into one of those icebergs during the implementation of what they’re calling Trust Networks.

I’ve received a spate of cryptic emails stating that “Person X has added you as a trusted contact on Spock. By accepting trust, you will be able to search each others’ network, share contact information, and get news.” Spock’s FAQ says, “You should only add people you are comfortable sharing your network connections with,” but doesn’t reveal how those connections are shared. What’s up?

I’m not the only one who’s annoyed and/or confused about how and why my contacts may get Spocked. Brad Templeton identifies a key issue with Spock’s approach to harvesting users’ contacts:

“We have to consider just how much we want to allow applications to ‘mail everybody in your address book.’ This started with Plaxo and Goodcontacts, which wanted to be address book managers, and now has moved into social networking tools.”

When Shelfari got heat for setting defaults to “Share my contacts,” Andrew Savikas pointed out that users and producers of Web 2.0 sites are in the process of crafting a new social contract. My social network is a subtle, fragile, and valuable asset. I want to have as much control over this social capital as I do the money in my bank account. So if a site wants my participation (and my friends’), they’ll build an architecture and set defaults that let me protect my social assets.