When you post messages to your friend's wall, do you consider how an outsider might perceive your message? Are there any items in your "interests" or "activities" sections of your profile that you wouldn't want your mother, teacher, or future employer see? If so, you need to keep reading. Computer users my age have a false sense of privacy while they prowl through the pages of Facebook and Myspace. They tend to believe that just because someone isn't their "friend," they can't see what information you've posted. This isn't true. There are a number of technologies out on the market and in development that facilitate the quest to gather more information about YOU.
Two new projects are leading the charge of indexing social networking as a method of profiling every user on the internet. SPOCK is a search engine in private beta testing that browses and analyzes internet profiles of a few major social communities. The fore-runner of the social indexing project is WIKIYOU. This search engine launched last month and provides a robust interface delivering search results for close match names as well as exact match. Both of these engines have the same mission but operate in a different manners.
When searching for myself, SPOCK presented to me four pages of users with real names matching "James Connors" scattered all around the world. My actual entry existed on the last page and contained a number of inaccurate items. Spock prowls profiles looking for identifying information such as your zodiac sign, age, hometown, occupation, etc. The engine then builds a tags for your entry into a profile that users can then "claim." Similarly, WIKIYOU allows users to claim their profile for their engine as well. Their method of indexing is to pull clippings, or small snippets, of your various profiles online and reproduce them in their search results matching keyword searches.
This movement towards social indexing represents a major shift in the way the internet works. Instead of categories or keywords, tags and social networking provides the basis for search results. The most important bit about these programs is that you do go and claim your profiles because, as in my experience, there can be false information contained within your profile. Claiming these profiles also allows you to build out the interface with your activities, other links, and aliases throughout the net thus providing potential employers or other checkers the accurate and correct information.
I'm planning another blog entry regarding this idea of claiming your identity on the net in the next few days because I think it's a really important issue to remember as an internet user of the 21st century. Thanks for reading, and I'll see you... next time.