The launch of social network Google+ will enable Google to gain ownership of the data that Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare currently have access to; the question to consider is how does Google plan to simultaneously protect and utilise this information?
The vantage point Google+ is aspiring for will enable them to profile their users based on consumer activity and typify the conversations people are engaging in online.
Testing the waters
Organisations on the cusp of adopting social media are keen to know whether social media providers will begin actively exploiting the data available to them. How many of us ever stop to consider that our conversations are being monitored by Facebook to determine our buying habits?
Raising public awareness of increasing user privacy is critical to establishing much-needed virtual boundaries: the line that distinguishes trading our information in return for a service from the exploitation of personal data is still far from clear.
Secure by default
Social networks are becoming notorious for sparking revolution and Google+ is no exception; promoting a preference for securing user groups by increasing default privacy settings has come as a pleasant surprise.
Privacy options are, ironically, much more visible; the user has the ability to select who sees each piece of information on their profile. Using the Circles feature, users are able to specify which group of friends receives their post and have the option to disable resharing. Users can also protect their networks by hiding the icons of followers and people they are following.
Segregation of information
Google+ appears to be pioneering efficiency, encouraging people to move their circle of friends, acquaintances, professional contacts and celebrity interests to one central site. However, contrary to this novel concept, protecting information from unauthorised access and disclosure is best achieved by using multiple storage locations.
Educating users on how to create complex passwords will become an even greater priority if one password protects both your friend and your business network; one webmail inbox hack could lead to the compromise of your Google+ account. A social network of this scale should consider the use of single sign on authentication to address the risks involved in using just one password to access user accounts.
Back to basics
The basic principles still apply; the ability to limit content to certain ‘circles’ within your network does not prevent recipients simply copying and pasting your material. Businesses looking to join the early-adopters must first assess how this tool can be used to their advantage, meanwhile advocating employee responsibility and accountability.
Google+ may be advancing towards a more streamlined social platform; however it does not offer a secure solution for discussing corporate intellectual property.