Social Graph Series 4: Moving Beyond Social Privacy to Semantic Web

My previous social graph series explains how web producers create amazing application by observing our social gesture. The more information that a web producer have on a user allow the web producer to give better recommendation. Web producer need to be able to capture user preferences on a bigger scale. Facebook has answered this challenge by providing the “FB Like” button. FB like button provides seamless integration into any web page with minimal obtrusion.

What is a FB “Like” button ?

Facebook like button allow a user to indicate whether he or she like something on the web. Implementing a like button involves putting an HTML snippet to our website. Some website, such as wordpress, may give more complexity than others. Facebook will post the item that you like in your facebook profile page. Your peer will also be able to know what you like without visiting facebook. Dan Tynan wrote an article on PC world that gives an example how Pandora pulled his “like” information and share his friends like information to suggest music to him.

Web producer can customize how their site shows up when users share your page with the Like button, by adding OpenGraph Meta data. Example (taken from FB Developer Page):

og:title – The title of your page; if not specified, the title element will be used.

og:site_name– The name of your web site, e.g., “CNN” or “IMDb”.

og:image – The URL of the best picture for this page. The image must be at least 50px by 50px and have a maximum aspect ratio of 3:1.

For example if you are creating a page about the movie ‘The Rock’ you would include this meta data:
<meta property=”og:title” content=”The Rock”/>
<meta property=”og:site_name” content=”IMDb”/>
<meta property=”og:image” content=””/&gt;

Why people may prefer FB “Like” button

There are other similar like button such as the re-tweet or buzz button. These buttons sends information to twitter or buzz on the item that we re-tweet or buzz. These like buttons does not work seamlessly like the FB like button. This other like button will redirect user to each of the button service provider when user click on them. They rely on OAuth to share the website data with Twitter or Buzz.  Facebook like button is less obtrusive compare to these other like button. Other “like” buttons have not used other Social Graph Meta tag such as OpenGraph, or Google Social Graph to add meaningful semantic to our social gesture.

Our Privacy and the “Like” button

Dan Tynan pointed out in his article on PC world that he is quite concern with the fact that most of his Facebook friends are people that he barely knows. What we need to be aware of is that Facebook shares your information to your friends list and third party websites.  It is very important that we start looking through our friends list and audit those people who we do not wish to share our information with. We can “like” things on the net without having to login to facebook. We will see our profile picture on websites content that we “liked” when we clicked the Facebook like button.

Facebook three partners, Yelp, and Pandora will receive FB “Instant Personalization”. Facebook “Instant Personalization” partners receives general information such as: your profile, your friends’ names, profile pictures, gender, connections, and any other content shared using the “everyone” privacy setting. Each partner is required to display a prominent blue scroll-down bar allowing users to instantly opt-out. If users don’t choose to opt out, the partner continues to be able to access general information. Facebook’s terms of service describes their agreement with these partners in more detail.  We can disable the “Instant Personalization” in our Privacy Setting page in Facebook.

It is worthwhile to check our “Like and Interest” setting in our Facebook privacy page just to make sure that our profile picture does not suddenly pop in websites that we do not know. Facebook privacy settings have some great features to allow us to block certain content to certain people or group of people.

FB Maze Like Privacy Page

I believe that Facebook has a certain degree of good intention to safeguard the privacy of our data. The problem is that FB privacy setting page is not very easy to use. We need to manually specify setting for each of FB functionality. FB does not provide a single button to restrict the privacy settings.

Facebook privacy setting page can be a complex maze for a lot of people. In my previous  post pointed out that most Facebook users still unable to set their Facebook privacy settings as to what they imagine it to be. Some people have decided to leave Facebook because they are not confident that they have not missed out any privacy setting in Facebook’s maze like privacy setting page.

On top of Facebook privacy page complexity, Facebook like to change their privacy setting drastically without giving much room for people to opt-out. Last year Facebook made our status updates privacy setting to ‘everyone’ , allowing total strangers to read our status updates. Facebook’s recent move does not really inspire much confidence from their user. I will still keep my Facebook profile alive because it is a great way to keep in touch with friends and family. I can’t deny that I am getting very nervous on how Facebook share my data. It has not been very easy to keep up with Facebook privacy changes.

Moving to a More Semantic Web.

There are a number of challenges around creating meaning in our social interaction on the web, beside privacy and openness. One problem is that there is not much data on the semantics. The only semantic data repository that I can find online is freebase. Even this is not enough to provide meaningful semantics on the social relationship online. The next issue is about meta data abuse. Open Graph allows web producers to specify any values within the OpenGraphMeta tag. People lie about who they are on line. People will also lie about what their web site is all about to drive search engine to visit their sites. OpenGraph is not immune to meta data abuse. Open Graph implementers need to battle the old black hat SEO tricks.

Putting the privacy and openness issues aside, I personally feel excited that major players in the industry such as Facebook, Twitter and Google have invested a lot of effort in making the web more semantically meaningful. I hope that my articles on Social Graph has contributed some values towards the discussion around the social web.

My Articles On Social Graph:


About zainul franciscus

Hi, I am a software developer and tech blogger who is currently living in Wellington, New Zealand. I write stuff that I find interesting on
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4 Responses to Social Graph Series 4: Moving Beyond Social Privacy to Semantic Web

  1. Pingback: Social Graph Series 1: Social Graph the Building Block of the Social Web | Curly Braces

  2. Pingback: Social Graph Series 2: Protocols that Defines Social Objects Relationship | Curly Braces

  3. Pingback: Social Graph Series 3: It’s About Time We Get Back Our Social Information | Curly Braces

  4. Lisa Valentine says:

    It’ll be interesting to see what kind of ramifications social graph has as it relates to more companies blocking employee access to social media apps altogether. Right now about 1/3 of U.S. companies are blocking. If yours is one of them, here’s a helpful resource. It’s a whitepaper called “To Block or Not. Is that the question?”

    It has lots of insightful and useful information about identifying and controlling Enterprise 2.0 apps (Facebook, Twitter, Skype, SharePoint, etc.)

    Share it with the IT Dept.

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