I woke up early this morning, excited to start my ‘social media predictions and trends for 2010’ post, which has been on my list for some time now. One of my new year’s resolutions is to make a greater effort to share opinions, insights, knowledge and observations that may be of value to others in the industry and today was the day!

It went afoul.

I was mildly surprised when I received an invitation to connect from media company “X” via Yahoo! Not that a connection request is odd (and I’m all about connecting), but when I looked twice, then a second time, my pleasant mystery quickly became concern.

Imagine my surprise when I started investigating how company “X” successfully sent an email invitation to an entirely different (unpublished) email account of mine, but through Yahoo!… I don’t know company X, or anyone from company X.

Even more mysterious was the combination of these bits of data:

  1. The email header included my married last name which I don’t use anywhere
  2. The invitation was not sent to my yahoo email (which I’ve had since 1995), nor a publicized address
  3. My yahoo profile had been changed to a hyphenated last name (I didn’t do it)

Curiosity killed the cat (that’s me), so off to mail.yahoo I went.

Yah-WHO? You really published my personal information from 1995? And by data mining? Without notifying, telling or asking?

Yes, that’s exactly what happened. I believe the word is “stunned”. In fact, some of the information came from my original yahoo profile, and some data had been mined from a questionable source (let’s just say there are two pieces of ID you never give out, that have that hyphenated name, which is the only source of locating it). That’s pretty much a ‘not-ok’. For starters, your birthday, age and name are public by default.

My auto assigned happy face is not so happy.

After following random clicks here and there, I eventually found the settings (above), and had to click ‘hide my age/save’ several times before it updated (now that you all know my birthday is coming up, I would happily accept thoughtful best wishes. But I’m thinking age isn’t really relevant nor of interest to most. 🙂 

I was expecting to be done, but noticed the new right side bar options; Relationships, Work, Schools, and Interests. At this point, I double-checked my browser URL to make sure I was really at mail.yahoo and not in fact on Facebook, LinkedIn, classmates or some dating site that I don’t visit nor am a member of. I clearly felt obligated to keep going because in fact, I really was at mail.yahoo.

Creeps & bullies, and 3rd party apps

creeps and bullies?
creeps and bullies, oh my! And Lions and tigers and bears? More searching and my level of concern started to match that of my frustration. Here’s your one ‘gimme’ yahoo; I was ‘pleased’ you didn’t pull a Facebook by defaulting ‘share’ with 3rd party apps. It was almost a relief. Can’t edit permissions? That would really be a drag for someone who uses yahoo apps, chat, connections, etc. but I don’t.Wait! Not only did I have a new sidebar menu (which by now I can confidently conclude potentially leads to a dark and mysterious place…)I was now being prompted to learn how to ‘manage my reputation’ and how to deal with ‘creeps and bullies’? If Yahoo feels the need to prioritize those topics on your permissions settings, I equally share the concern about my reputation AND creeps and bullies.How long will this take?I finally found all my options in the help section.
Worn out by now, I believe I finally located the full view of information that may or may not be out there in the help files (look at all those new settings…ugh, what a drag). I’m not sure I found everything, but what was clear is that I had been socialized without even knowing it or being asked. I’m not interested in managing my yahoo reputation, age, birthday, connections and blogs or have a guestbook, photos, manage an alias or chat. I’m sure some people are, but I, like most users, live in the channels that have value to me.

The net-net?

I ‘get’ the business logic for trying to keep your channel engaged by providing a robust & valuable group of services that will keep them – it’s one of the trends I believe we’ll continue to see significant shifts in, moving forward. It will be critical to establishing leadership success. But compromising trust (and privacy) is a fail that leads to initiatives like Facebook death.  

So I’ll wrap this up by calling this out as the ‘mis-perceived value’ and privacy fail. By now it’s an ‘old’ social media truth to ask and I’m not sure why folks can’t quite get that one right.

So, who is my new friend media company ‘X’? I never did find the answer (though I’m certain I’d be happy to connect); But after all that, I couldn’t find ‘X’s profile through yahoo and am still wondering how they found mine.

That mystery I’ll save for another day.