Just in case anyone still harbors illusions on this score, the answer is "Yes, the federal government is definitely spying on social media." In the latest development, a group of online privacy advocates is suing the Department of Homeland Security for failing to release records of its online spying -- which isn't terribly surprising, considering that it's not really spying anymore if everyone knows what you're doing.
After months of skepticism and nay-saying from doubters like myself, Google+ appears to be establishing itself as a viable social network and possibly even a competitor to Facebook (even though doctrinaire users will remind you that it is not supposed to be a social network or a Facebook competitor, according to Google executives).
Facebook's utility as an advertising platform may still be a matter of debate, but it is definitely useful for saving lives in hostage situations. The Associated Press reports that a woman and her 17-month-old child were rescued after being held hostage for five days in Utah by her unstable ex-boyfriend.
The huge upheavals which toppled tyrants across the Middle East are just the beginning, in terms of social media's ability to facilitate social change in the region, according to the Arab Social Media Report released by the Dubai School of Government. For one thing, relatively few Arabs who use social media fear government repression if they air their views online; social media also has the potential to catalyze further social change by empowering Arab women, according to the DSG report, which is based on a survey of 469 people ages 15-40 in 22 Arab countries.
Americans (and people in other countries) who hold college degrees are more likely to use social networks than peers who don't hold college degrees, according to a new global survey of technology adoption by Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project. Unsurprisingly Pew also found that social network activity is also correlated with age, skewing younger, and nationality, skewing higher in countries with bigger GDPs.
There are a lot of lawyers in the U.S., in case you haven't noticed -- 1.16 million, according to one tally in 2007, or roughly one out of every 300 people -- and American society is correspondingly litigious. With so many lawyers and so many potential litigants out there, social media is a natural channel for law firms to turn for new business and client relationship management, not to mention recruiting and PR. But some law firms are embracing social media faster than others, according to a survey by Vizibility Inc. and LexisNexis reported by Lawyers.com and the LawMarketing Blog.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that people who share their whereabouts on social media are exposing themselves to burglary and theft -- and there is now additional confirmation from insurance companies warning social media users against this type of over-sharing. The most recent warning comes from Australia, where home insurance provider GIO found that 37% of Aussie social media users post their location when they are on vacation or post photos showing them in vacation spots, both of which can clue criminals in that they're not at home.
The squiggly red line under the word "unfriend" is MS Word reminding me that it is a neologism, and a fairly bizarre one at that (to my ears it sounds more like a noun than a verb). But "to unfriend" is now apparently part of the English language, at least as of 2009, when it was chosen as new word of the year by the Oxford English Dictionary. And now we are finding out what drives unfriending, thanks to Nielsen, which did a survey to find out what prompts people to ditch their Facebook friends.
Moms say their retail purchasing decisions are influenced by social media, according to a national survey of 700 mothers conducted by Fleishman-Hillard and ModernMom.com in September. Social media affects their in-store shopping experience with information about sales and coupons, as well as through blogger reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations from friends.
The trading day isn't over yet, but so far the IPO for Zynga, the social casual game juggernaut, has fallen flatter than wilted crops on FarmVille (okay, that was a stretch -- anyone got something better?). After debuting at $10, the company's stock briefly reached $11 per share before dropping to $9.28 at the time of writing, down 7.2% from the initial offering.