Jinfo BlogPeople problems

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By Tim Buckley Owen

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With the growth of social networking, people information can have ever wider applications, says a new report. But pursuing information on individuals throws up a whole host of further issues, like deciding who you need to follow, and even whether your pursuit is legal at all. Among all the possible applications, vendor portfolio managers were little involved as yet with those in the ‘Who knows what?’ category, said the Outsell report, Who, What, Where, How? People Information for the Enterprise (purchase details at http://digbig.com/5bckqm). Covering practices such as knowledge sharing, crowdsourcing or expert and professional networks, this certainly looks like an opportunity to seize. But, despite the 35 or so vendors with their various solutions that Outsell profiles, there are wider concerns that infopros will also need to address. Take directed social networks – the ones that, at the simplest end of the scale, list ‘people you may know’ or tell you that ‘people who bought x also bought y’. Reporting recently on their own directed network experiment, Michael Brzozowski of Hewlett-Packard Labs and Daniel Romero of Cornell University found for example that having a similarity with someone was actually a relatively poor reason for a social network to recommend you to follow them. They also found that many of the users in their experiment didn’t take the decision to follow a new person lightly, even though many current user recommendation interfaces ask users to ‘blindly follow’ new people – and they recommended that injecting an element of randomness could help engage users to keep them coming back (http://digbig.com/5bckqn). Underlying anything to do with people information is privacy. In a recent New York Times article, Kevin O’Brien pointed out that the definition of what constitutes personal information is much broader in Europe than in the United States, and that this is putting the brakes on development of cloud-based applications (http://digbig.com/5bckqp). Speaking at a recent conference on Cloud Computing for the Public Sector (reported on the Public Technology blog), representatives of the United Kingdom Information Commissioner’s Office indicated that there wasn’t likely to be any let up on personal privacy any time soon (http://digbig.com/5bckqq). Nowhere in Europe is this more apparent than in Germany, where a recent proposal to limit employers’ use of social networks (see http://www.vivavip.com/go/e30375 for details) has now been followed up by a government suggestion that internet companies could possibly avoid tougher privacy legislation by drawing up their own code of practice by December 7 (http://digbig.com/5bckqr). If dealing with all this is difficult enough when it’s just for you, how much more difficult is it for information professionals trying to do it as a proxy for the decision makers they’re supporting? The opportunities are there – but so are the challenges.

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