Mixi and private information October 13, 2006Posted by fukumimi in Internet, Japan.
Mixi shares have taken a battering since last week, currently trading at JPY1.9M down around JPY1M since the beginning of last week.
The main reason for the drop is attributed to Mixi being involved in an embarrassing incident of private photos being found on the internet due to user using P2P file sharing software which was compromised by a computer virus. The content of said user’s PC was made available through the P2P network, and this included mail records and photos of this user and his girlfriend (without any clothes on and with legs wide open, apparently). Someone apparently went through the mail data and determined the names of both the compromised user and his girlfriend, and then went onto Mixi and did a search for both, found users who matched the descriptions of both.
All this information found its way onto 2ch, the notorious free-for-all BBS, and apparently someone posted the information onto various communities in Mixi related to the two individuals as well.
The 2ch crowd have done a through job of dredging up personal details of the involved parties, and the whole thing has become a nightmare for the couple.
The media picked this up, and Mixi updated its FAQ regarding posting of profile information which might identify users.
The whole thing has become such a big deal on the internet partly because the girlfriend is apparently pretty and has a innocent, well brought up look about her.
I guess Mixi is seen as guilty by association, and further there is a potential financial impact in that if many more users set up their profiles to have no real information associated with them (ie if we all put our age as 99 and sex as male, and a made up name) it will make targeted advertising more difficult and impact advertising revenues, and also make it more difficult for users to search for their friends which may impact the initial adoption by new users (I don’t think many users search for their friends apart from when they first join).
The media is using this as another example of the dangers of posting identifying data on the internet, and this will no doubt reinforce the anonymous nature of the Japanese internet.
The original compromising information was not released via Mixi, but the episode illustrates how various fragments of a person’s identity can be pieced together much more easily and with much greater impact due to the nature of the internet.
I personally feel that this should not be used as an excuse to default to anonymous usage of the internet. The internet has the power to be more than an anonymous and irresponsible free-far-all a la 2ch, and real value is being created by those of us who use the tools available to us with care. That isn’t to say that people don’t have the right to anonymity on the internet or elsewhere, of course.
I do not think of my on-line persona as being detached from my off-line persona, and am registered on Mixi with my real name and plenty of identifying information for people who might want to find me. I do take care with publishing information about others who might not want their information on the internet, and I certainly don’t have compromising pictures of myself or others on the hard drive of any networked PC….