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What social networks reveal about us


HAMBURG. When it came to privacy was the biggest concern from privacy a long time to secure the contents of communications. Read letters, recording phone calls, listen to conversations – these things should be strictly avoided or kept to an absolute minimum.

But the more the networks in which we humans organize ourselves so, are publicly available, the stronger is also obvious how much data about these linkages alone betrayed us. And that they make available in any doubt about the threatening us.

Provides strong evidence that retention. Who’s with whom, when, how much and from where the phone can be more revealing than the content of the talks themselves, the Chaos Computer Club said in a report to the Federal Constitutional Court. Fortunately, therefore, these so-called traffic data are not available to anyone.

But this is valid only for the calls. In networks such as Twitter and Facebook, however, anyone can see who communicates with whom how often. What we deliver to anyone who wants to know, meaningful data.

How meaningful they are, for example, shows a recently published study by Jan scratches from the Technical University of Berlin and Christopher Lettl from the University of Arhus in Denmark. They examined the relationships of 537 students from 23 schools – not in a social network, but classically, by consulting the students who are in their class and how does talking to whom.

They wanted to know how two specific personality types are linked in these networks and whether they can identify themselves using their networking. By no means a new approach. The amazing thing about the study, however, clearly show how two – even for states and security interest – user groups. "Influencers" and "leaders" are the result, clearly recognizable by their traffic data and distinguishable.

According to the researchers defined "leader" those who are networked with many different groups and get them through a variety of information and are subject to various influences. Such a bridge increases the likelihood that the person developing into a "lead user", which is a pioneer and leader of the pack.

"Opinion leaders", however, are linked only within a particular group, but in this very well and directly through many relationships. They would function as a "hub" in this group, so as a node or focus and attitudes strongly influence within the group.

The two economists were interested in these guys from a purely economic perspective. If they wanted it to investigate what causes product ideas are disseminated, and who is responsible for the dissemination of new products – like many trendsetters are needed, then, until some new brand for the masses is interesting and brings so much money.

But at least since there is the Internet, different disciplines dealing with how to recognize patterns in distributed networks, and to turn off then these networks.

In 2002, Valdis Krebs, the programmer showed what is possible with so-called Social Netwerkanalyse. His starting point was the names of two terrorist suspects, who were struck by the CIA at a meeting in Malaysia in 2000: Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar. After the attacks of 11 September 2001 made use of publicly accessible information about cancer, the two and their contacts throughout the world to make connections visible. At the end of his analysis, he saw two things: All 19 bombers of the 11th September were in the context of the first two names were Mohammed Atta and appears poised to take a leading role in the network.

And in November this year, for instance, he analyzed data that had published the White House on visitor of President Barack Obama. Accordingly, the most important people in the White House after the president (alcoholism) are not the first lady and the vice president, but Tina Tchen, director of the Department of Public Engagement and Lawrence Summers, chief of the National Economic Council.

At the same time, there are studies that deal with what you have to do to paralyze distributed and constantly changing networks. The result is always the same, find the intersections and off. That does not mean the visible leader. This is the only aim is long term, ineffective, as shown by, inter alia, Maksim Tsvetovat and Kathleen Carley of Carnegie Mellon University.

But such networks have the ability to "heal himself" and replace leadership figures. More important was to analyze the structure of their networks to educate, to find weaknesses – those nodes that can not be replaced so easily, for example, operating in the background, opinion-makers.

No wonder then that the interest is huge in social networks. All the more frightening, how easy it is for security, for example, data received from the operators. The blogger and Datenschutzaktivistin Anne Roth reported in a recent entry, such as automated and self-Friend Facebook, MySpace, PayPal, Yahoo and other data about their users. And also how often. Facebook, for example ten to twenty times a day.

The sentence, the programmer has written cancer in his blog, should actually resplendent as a constant reminder to all of these networks: "Remember … The technology that gives You the power to organize, therefore, gives Them the power to watch. "