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Getting Social

Social Media has really taken off in the last few years. Many websites now have a way to interact with these Social Networks, such as Facebook's ubiquitous "Like" button.

Recently, Google began a limited field trial (otherwise known as a Beta, though at this point, it's more like a pre-Beta) of their own social network, named Google Plus (Google+, or G+ for short).

Many of my friends and acquaintances have wondered why Google would try to compete with the gigantic beast known as Facebook, and for those of us paying attention to Tech news, the reason is simple:

Facebook can not be trusted with your privacy.

Now, many people will point out that Facebook provides several ways to mark your posts, pictures, and personal information as Private.. That may be true, however, there have been many times that Facebook has added new information-sharing features that default to On, and sometimes reset some of your Privacy settings.

There have been several times that I've had to step through every Privacy option to make sure that my personal details weren't being shown to Everybody On The Internet.. and many times I've been disappointed to find that they were. Facebook doesn't give any kind of warning about these new features, and sometimes they might be enabled for weeks before you hear about them.

For example: There is a setting, somewhat out-of-sight, that enables any Applications that your Friends use to access every bit of information that your Friend can see about you.. Your entire posting history, all of your photo albums, everything. Why does an App that someone ELSE is using need to access that information? Add the fact that Facebook's Application API was leaking an access token that could be used to make posts to your wall without your permission, and it doesn't take much to imagine how ripe for abuse this is.

(If you're wondering, this setting is in Account > Privacy Settings > Apps and Websites > Info accessible through your friends)

So, back to Google+. As with any social network, the entire point is sharing your information with others. Google has addressed nearly every problem associated with putting all your information online..

Your friends are organized into Circles, (which matches how friends work in Real Life) and you have full control over which circles can see which parts of your Profile.

Most information-sharing features are Opt-In, and disabled by default. Many of these settings are presented to you when you first create your account. (This is the polar opposite of Facebook, which tends to enable them by default and you have to dig through your Privacy Settings to Opt-Out.)

One of the things I really like about Google+ is how they handle their Targeted Advertising: Facebook's method basically hands over (semi-anonymous) user data to third-party advertisers, whereas Google's ads are all in-house.. so your data never leaves the Google Network. That's a big plus (ha ha, punny!) in my book.

Though I will remain a user of both Facebook and Google+ for the forseeable future, as more of my contacts move to G+, I expect that my Facebook account will see less and less use. Eventually, I'll close the account and never look back; Facebook has lost my trust and it's never going to gain it back.

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