Yes, what you are doing in this virtual world of social networks increasingly impacts what happens to you in your real life – because of what people – anybody- can know from your virtual life at the touch of a screen.
And I am not just speaking about dating or meeting with people that you’ve met on a social network. Not even about vendors collecting your clicks and maybe even your location to propose to you products that are ideally suited to your habits and your current situation (which is a bit scary but theoretically should be very practical).
Do you know there is a lot of controversy regarding Klout. It is a service that supposedly measures your online influence. Of course, there is a bit of controversy about how that’s measured (but then the tool is still “beta”). However the biggest issue is how this unique number that measures influence can be used in real life.
This astonishing paper in Wired shows that even if you don’t know what it is, your Klout score might actually already change your life: it might be looked up by prospective employers or even the hotel clerk (to check if you could really damage their reputation). So you’d maybe better want to know what it is!
A good summary of the issue of the public availability of these indicators can be found in this paper by Jason Falls “The Problems with Social Profiling”.
Of course such a subject unleashes passion: someone computes a score that is publicly available and measures your power of influence or annoyance. This is much more pervading than the recent trend of prospective employers to ask candidates to show them their Facebook page.
The debate on personal data on the internet is now superseded by the debate on those abstract indicators that measure your overall activity – without any hint as to what your activity is. And because these data are available to everyone, increasingly, social network and real life network spaces become intermeshed.
We still need to learn how to benefit from that opportunity while avoiding the main risks. The quest will be long and bumpy. It is unavoidable. The Fourth Revolution is expanding.