Arrogant bullies versus Superheroine

Does ANYONE who has thought about digital identity in the last five years NOT know about Identity Woman?  I don't think so!

I personally know hundreds – I'll even say thousands –  of influential people around the world (in Europe, Asia and North America, in big companies and tiny startups, in government, the Academic world and NGOs,  in non-profit and for-profit ventures) who see Identity Woman as I do:  the soul of a very broad and interactive technical community, a moral force for good and excellence, and a smart innovator.  Besides that, did I say, a great lady and a superheroine?

Identity Woman is a super-talented facilitator – who operates outside the box. She has thrown herself into the task of getting a whole world of self-directed people working on identity for companies big and small to understand each other – and even to learn from and motivate each other.

So what would you think of someone who took it upon themselves to stop her from calling herself “Identity Woman”?  Does the word “control freak” come to mind?  How about “bully”.  Or maybe “megalomaniac”?

Or how about Google Plus – the supposedly cool and privacy friendly new social network.

It turns out Google Plus is not cool enough to tolerate even a single “Identity Woman”, in spite of her overwhealmingly positive reputation and the fact that an exact search on her name returns 390,000 hits on Google's own search engine!

This is not a good day.  I'm sick and tired of seeing social network moguls pushing people around because we help them grow powerful.  Enough already!  Social networks are big because they are OUR networks.  They need to be run in ways that respect the nature of a free society.  This is going to become a social battleground.

Go over to Identity Woman's site for the whole sad story. It teaches a lot about the need for a whole spectrum of identity requirements.  Sure, there are times when people need to present “natural” identities that reflect what their parents called them.   But in real life we don't necessarily do that in our informal interactions.  We use nicknames and partial names and sometimes keep our names to ourselves.  Social networks need to grasp these nuances.  And those trying to limit our behaviors and squeeze our potential should just back off.

[More on this theoretical issue here.]

Linked In strikes out

According to this piece in Digital Trend, LinkedIn has “opted” 100 million of us into sharing private information within advertisements. This includes posting our names and photos as advertisers’ helpers.

“When a LinkedIn user views a third-party advertisement on the social network, they will see user profile pictures and names of connections if that connection has recommended or followed a brand. Any time that a user follows a brand, they unwittingly become a cheerleader for the company or organization if it advertises through LinkedIn.”

And in case that doesn't surprise you, how about this:

“In order to opt out of social advertising, the LinkedIn user has to take four steps to escape third-party advertisements:

“Hover over the user name in the top right hand corner of any LinkedIn page and click ‘Settings’. On the Settings page, click ‘Account’. On the Account tab, click ‘Manage Social Advertising’. Uncheck the box next to “LinkedIn may use my name, photo in social advertising.” and click the save button.”

What a mistake.

I know there are many who think that if Facebook can take the huddled masses to the cleaners, why shouldn't everyone?

It seems obvious that the overwhelming majority of people who participate in Facebook are still a few years away from understanding and reacting to what they have got themselves into.

But Linked In's membership is a lot more savvy about the implications of being on the site – and why they are sharing information there. Much of their participation has to do with future opportunities, and everyone is sensitive about the need to control and predict how they will be evaluated later in their career. Until yesterday I for one had been convinced that Linked In was smart enough to understand this.

But apparently not.  And I think it will turn out that many of the professionals who until now have been happy to participate will choke on the potential abuse of their professional information and reputation – and Linked In's disregard for their trust.

My conclusion?  Linked in has just thrown down the gauntlet and challenged us, as a community of professionals, to come up with safe and democratic ways to network.

This much is obvious: we need a network that respects the rights of the people in it. Linked In just lost my vote.