Is privacy possible in a social network? And, if so, which social-network service does it the best? We put Facebook and LinkedIn head-to-head to find out which is better.
Responses from my friends and connections: Advantage LinkedIn
What did my friends and connections say about this comparison? Their unanimous vote was in favor of LinkedIn. "You can't compare the two," wrote one, who explained that they serve different purposes.
Facebook is for sharing private information with friends, she elaborated, while LinkedIn is for sharing professional information with acquaintances.
Others complained about Facebook's regular changes in privacy settings that force them to spend time figuring out what just changed and how to set it back to the privacy-friendly position.
Track record: Advantage LinkedIn
The last time I was in Silicon Valley, I decided to get a visual on where all my data was. I was amazed at how close together everything was situated.
Just down the street from Google's Mountain View headquarters is LinkedIn. I couldn't have swung a dead cat around my head without hitting a Yahoo building.
And within another half hour I'd been to Apple in Cupertino and Facebook in Palo Alto.
According to LinkedIn's company search, employees routinely job hop among these companies. Facebook and LinkedIn have followed similar trajectories.
Founded in 2004, Facebook reportedly employs about 1,000 who serve over 400 million users. LinkedIn, launched in 2003, has roughly 500 employees serving a reported 60 million users.
In spite of their similar culture and business models, the companies have markedly different privacy track records.
LinkedIn has not messed up on privacy. A web search drew blanks on this topic.
The same can't be said for Facebook, which has suffered a string of policy gaffes and investigations by the US, Canadian and British governments.
At a January 2010 conference in San Francisco, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained the company's approach, saying that changing Facebook's privacy policies and settings is a strategy to keep the company fresh as social norms for privacy evolve.
So, the final vote: three advantages for LinkedIn, and three ties.
Everything considered, one of the best privacy innovations these two firms have offered has been the concept of granular privacy controls.
Their future growth into emerging markets - where people may be more cautious about their online privacy - may depend on it.
See also: How to: Protect your Facebook privacy
- Which social network protects your personal information best
- Staff commitment to privacy
- Responses from my friends and connections