Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Social Network I'd be Interested In...

Seeing ProtonMail's introduction this week made me think again about privacy on the internet - there's not much of it.  I'm not too concerned about people snooping on me on the internet (I'm pretty boring), but in principle it bothers me. Collecting my searches to find my interests, scanning my emails to figure out demographic info - all in the name of selling ads. I guess it pays the bills for the company to offer internet services, but is there another way?

How about this instead:
Part 1
Instead of 'guestimating' who I am and what I'm interested in by monitoring me, let me provide the information.

On the social networking site I'd fill in my age, gender, where I live, what I do, my favorite brands, where I shop, what I plan to buy in the week/month/year, etc. If they needed more info, they could ask me, I could decide if I want to share it. And I could remove info if I wanted. They'd take that info and match me with relevant ads, coupons, etc.

Why would I give up that info?

Because they'd give me a cut of the advertising fees that are generated by users. The more info I give, the bigger cut I'd get.

Yeah, it wouldn't amount to much over a year (a couple of dollars?), but it'd be more than I'm getting now, and it'd stop them from snooping my stuff. Plus, if the social networking company could count used coupons towards that, it might start to look like real money.

[A few of points:

  • Note that I didn't say 'a cut of the advertising fees that I generate' - that'd make people try to game the system. 
  • The user would need to supply a credit card too, so this social networking company could match it to a name/address - this would prevent people from registering 1000 times to increase revenue.
  • Lastly, it'd be great for the social networking company if they could get feedback on how effective their ads are, maybe with personalized coupons with special codes?]

Part 2
Instead of having a centralized data center where all social posts are stored (for ad processing...), have the data center just hold the data until everyone in your 'circle' has received the post. Have each users own computer hold all posts of their friends (or an encrypted slice on their portion of the cloud). New friends get access to new posts only, not the new's friends entire history of posts. Almost like an automated email, where your friends are CC'd.

This makes things more temporal, and (again) more private. Yes, you'd 'miss' public posts from non-friends, but is that missing much?

Who could provide this? I think it'd be hard for a start-up to jump in an make waves with this. Facebook & Google would be crazy to do it - give away some of their revenue stream? But for Yahoo!, this could work (what have they got to lose?). Or maybe someone like Amazon - they'd get feedback on how well the ads work. I guess American Express/Visa/MC could try too?

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