October 8, 2007

Don’t touch me there! (my personal data & Microsoft & Kodak)

Posted in Customer Lack of Service at 12:26 pm by loolar

There is a deeply annoying trend in online services. I hadn’t really bothered with commenting on it until it finally annoyed me on a very personal level, but now it’s war (more on the personal later).

The trend is this: companies forcing you to “register” with them before you may use their services. Most recently, the trend has rudely invaded me with Kodak’s online photo sharing site, and with Windows Live Spaces (formerly MSN Spaces, I think – the “re-branding” has been nothing but confusing).

Now, granted, some of this may be a privacy setting – you only want people you know viewing your photos or commenting on your blog. Fair enough. But the messages don’t remotely indicate that you’re facing a privacy setting, put into place by your friend/loved one. No, they simply bluntly inform you that you have to, “create an account/ID/way for us to sell your data to a third party like a big dirtbag.”

For example:
“You must sign in using a Windows Live ID™ to add a comment to this space. Sign in
Don’t have a Windows Live ID? Sign up now”

Nothing turns me off faster. Luckily, I’ve been able to get around the Kodak deal with the fact that my mother visited and logged in, and now I have her ID in my passkeys (yay, Mac). Which, by the way, tells me it’s not about a privacy setting put into place by the originating album creator – why else would my mother’s ID work for photo albums created by people whom she has never met?

The truth is, this is just another contemptible butt zit method for these companies to “harvest” user data, either to come knocking at your virtual door, or to sell your valid email address to those nadir of the net world pustules – spammers.

And I refuse.

There are two far more elegant ways for companies to handle this:

  1. Tell me that this is a privacy level enabled by the blogger/creator. Of course, this is bogus anyway – blogs can be put on a moderator status if you’re worried about invasive comments from strangers – just choose to delete comments you don’t want. So why do I need to create a frickin Microsoft radio tag so they can track me in the wild? Oh yeah, underhanded sneakiness to get my valid email… and study my migratory mating habits, I guess.
  2. Just come out and say, “You want to use this free service? Then you’re going to have to give us a little something-something in return, you internet slut.”

At least then I could appreciate the honesty.

Now, I could be totally wrong about this – but there isn’t enough transparency as to WHY they want my data.  Given that, I have to use Occam’s razor (to paraphrase, the easiest explanation is usually right), which yields the explanation that they’re holding the content of my friends and family hostage, for the ransom of my data.

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2 Comments »

  1. […] Check it out! While looking through the blogosphere we stumbled on an interesting post today.Here’s a quick excerptSo why do I need to create a frickin Microsoft radio tag so they can track me in the wild?… […]

  2. Mike Torres said,

    For what it’s worth, the actual reason we require Live ID signin is nowhere near as nefarious as it may seem.

    I’ve been involved in just about every meeting we’ve ever had on the team relating to Privacy (our privacy champion – yes we have a privacy champion – works for me) and the primary reason we ask for signin is due to system-wide comment spam. With over 100 million spaces out in the wild, comment spam is just as much of a problem as email spam is with Yahoo Mail, Gmail, and Hotmail. It’s something we take very seriously.

    The ID barrier is high enough to keep (most) spammers out, but not high enough to get over for most well intentioned people. It was the best we could do at the time.

    Having said that, I can’t defend the feature as it’s something I personally don’t like either. So we’re looking at ways to change this without opening up the service to a sewer. You’d be amazed at the scale of it all, trust me.

    In the meantime, rest assured that there aren’t a bunch of evil people running around the halls wondering how we can get people to give us information so we can lock it in a vault. It’s actually quite the opposite. Windows Live Spaces is actually a leader when it comes to freedom of information sharing – just about every bit of a user’s space is available via XML/RSS. Folks on my team like to say that we’re just the custodian of the data while the user OWNS it. And our TOU is inline with this.

    But the fact that you have this perception is a problem in itself, and something we need to address, even if only through messaging.


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