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to be seen. But Facebook’s recent travails do provide a cautionary tale. Under one of Facebook’s most-criticized past policies, it allowed third parties not only to collect the profiles of users, but also to reach through and extract profiles of their friends, families, and other associates who had not given their own permission.
As a search engine rather than a social media network, Findera is offering access to information that many of its profile subjects may not themselves have volunteered to be displayed on its platform—or may not even be aware of the company’s existence. On LinkedIn and Facebook, users can decide whether to build a profile there, and have some measure of control over how they want to be contacted.
Could Findera face a backlash if the friends of account holders start receiving unexpected, and perhaps unwelcome messages on their private e-mail accounts from people outside their personal circles, and find out that a Findera user has opened the door to that?
“Anything’s possible,” Daligault says. “We haven’t heard this kind of concern.” If that happened, Findera would quickly respond to any request to delete or modify a person’s profile, he says.
If Findera succeeds in making a map of the “true connections” among its account holders by identifying the people its users message most frequently over e-mail, might that end up revealing something intensely private to one of their work colleagues? For example, if a user asks Findera to find someone in her own network who could introduce her to an expert in medicine, could the search return the name of her colleague’s treating oncologist? Could another search reveal that a friend has been e-mailing frequently with a divorce lawyer?
Daligault says the discussion led him to talk over such scenarios with his team, and consider what kinds of controls to add to the Findera account settings.
“The best thing we can do is just be transparent,” he says.
Findera might need to enable people with accounts to see whom the company had identified as their close connections, Daligault says, and give them the option to remove some or all of those contacts from the search results.
“If we don’t build trust, we’re not going to go anywhere,” Daligault says.