Users Holding Accounts on Multiple Online Social Networks: An Extended Conceptual Model of the Portable User Profile

Users Holding Accounts on Multiple Online Social Networks: An Extended Conceptual Model of the Portable User Profile

Sarah Bouraga (University of Namur, Belgium), Ivan Jureta (Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique, Belgium & University of Namur, Belgium) and Stéphane Faulkner (University of Namur, Belgium)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5715-9.ch005

Abstract

The last decade has seen an increasing number of online social network (OSN) users. As they grew more and more popular over the years, OSNs became also more and more profitable. Indeed, users share a considerable amount of personal information on these sites, both intentionally and unintentionally. And thanks to this enormous user base, social networks are able to generate recommendations, attract numerous advertisers, and sell data to companies. This situation has sparked a lot of interest in the research community. Indeed, users grow more uncomfortable with the idea that they do not have full control over their own data. The lack of control can even be amplified when a user holds an account on various OSNs. The data she shares is then spread over multiple platforms. This chapter addresses the notion of portable profile, which could help users to gain more control or more awareness of the data collected about her. In this chapter, the authors discuss the advantages and drawbacks of a portable profile. Secondly, they propose a conceptual model for the data in this unified profile.
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Introduction

An area of the Web 2.0 gaining increasing success globally is the Online Social Network (OSN), or Social Networking Site (SNS). OSN refers to, according to Ellison et al. (2007):

Web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system. The nature and nomenclature of these connections may vary from site to site.”

The last decade has seen an increasing number of OSN users. These systems allow their users to interact with one another. Users set up an account, state relationships with other users, and are then able to communicate with each other, and share content. The most popular OSNs, such as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn count hundreds of millions of members, that is, of users who have registered and thereby can use the features of these OSNs.

The first social network site was introduced in 1997. Called SixDegrees.com, it allowed its members to create a profile, list their Friends and, later to view others’ friends lists (Ellison et al., 2007). As they grew more and more popular over the years, OSNs became also more and more profitable. Users share a considerable amount of personal information on these sites, both intentionally and unintentionally. And thanks to this enormous user base, OSNs are able to generate recommendations; attract numerous advertisers; and sell data to interested third parties.

This situation has led to the users’ growing reluctance to share information. Users are uncomfortable with the idea that they do not have full control over their own data. In response, most current OSNs offer the possibility to their members to manage their privacy settings; allowing them to control who sees what about them and the content that they shared.

The increasing popularity of the OSN, and the questionable use of the data by the OSN have led to considerable interest in the research community. Many authors, for instance, have addressed the privacy and trust issues (Dwyer et al., 2007; Strater & Lipford, 2008; Madejski et al., 2011).

A way to increase the user trust in OSNs could be the introduction of a portable profile. It would be portable, in the sense that if a user registers on OSN A, she would be able to carry over the content of her profile to OSN B, and choose which of that data and content would appear on OSN B. The portable profile would offer more transparency to users, as they would know what data in some sense defines them on an OSN. This topic about the introduction of an integrated profile has also been mentioned in the literature (Heckmann et al., 2005; Berkovsky et al., 2008; Abel et al., 2011; Kapsammer et al., 2012).

This paper has two objectives and corresponding contributions. Firstly, we aim at listing the advantages and drawbacks of a portable profile, from the perspective of the user and from the perspective of the OSN. We will identify these benefits and limitations via an example. Secondly, we find the content for the portable user profile by looking at the content of user profiles on various existing OSNs, and from there propose a preliminary conceptual model of the portable user profile.

The rest of this article is organized as follows. Related work is introduced in Section 2. In Section 3, we discuss the motivations for a Portable User Profile (PUP). The proposed conceptual model for PUP is presented in Section 4. Finally, we discuss the results and conclude the paper in Sections 5 and 6 respectively.

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