Sarah K. Noonan Didn't Exist

Sarah imageSarah, as described in her Facebook account was 27, attractive, a Democrat, and in a complicated relationship. She had more than 480 friends, yet no one really knew here. Sarah K. Noonan was a fake. She did not exist. This phony Facebook account was created by an advertising agency as a test. The agency was wondering… Is Facebook an effective tool for advertising, or is it mostly smoke and mirrors? (Image from The Miami Herald – link on image – and RIP Sarah account on Facebook)

No one knew the phony Sarah, but the account found it easy to add new friends, almost 20 per week. Facebook doesn't allow phony accounts, and works to shut them down, but there are likely a lot of Sarah's out there. Do you have friends like Sarah that you're sharing personal information with? Read the full article from Bridget Carey, McClatchy Newspapers, at timesfreepress.com.

There appears to be couple lessons in this story; security and privacy. A large percentage of people accepting Sarah as a friend – opening up their personal information on Facebook – without having a clue who she was. Chasing the hype. Facebook may be a good marketing tool, but understanding the pros, cons, and foolery behind it might even be better.

0 thoughts on “Sarah K. Noonan Didn't Exist

  1. In a sense, what is described in this article is sort of a social media SPAM.  There is an implicit trust that people have with the social media sites.  What is described could definitely start to erode people's trust in social media sites or, at least, cause friction in adoption and growth of the sites. Will this sort of fraud turn people off to the social media sites or will the general populace become more guarded in what they reveal and who are included in their inner circle, so that this will not be a big deal?

    – What lessons are there for Independent Telcos in this case?  

    – For those Telcos with Facebook accounts, does it make sense to "friend" everyone who asks, especially, if they might be fishing for access to a Telco's friends?  

    – Are there opportunities for Telcos to create "community" social media sites that could leverage the trusted position the telco has in the community?  Of course, it also presents challenges as to how to keep that trust in a virtual world.  

    Lots of interesting questions to which there probably are no easy answers.  

  2. With  the wide publicity and extensive press about Facebook privacy issues, I don't think there is anything new here.  In this case, the issue is not with Facebook, but with people who trusted the imaginery young lady.
    There is software available to build social networking web sites that does have privacy protection, but no software can deal with gullibility of participants.  This is a human nature issue that has nothing to do with technology

  3. Agreed that it may not be so much a technology issue as a gullibility issue, but it still affects the utility of the service.  If enough people start to think of Facebook and other sites as not being a safe place or that their data is vulnerable because of frauds like Roger described, then the popularity of those sites could decline.  Those sites that are able to build and retain user's trust will be more likely to be around for the long-term.  

    I think the challenge for any of these sites is how to implement processes that protect (or let the users protect) user's data without affecting ease of use.  

  4. I don't usually respond to anonymous replies – they're anonymous for a reason – but I'm making an exception because if anyone else missed my points that badly I need to reinforce my points.

    First (which is a follow-up to my previous posts on social media) I'm reaffirming that a lot of the hype behind social media could be just that. The ad agency behind Sarah was testing the effectiveness of selling on Facebook. They didn't offer a conclusion, but asked the question… is it mostly smoke and mirrors? I've suggested that the sheer volume of posts on social media sites are creating information that's like dust in the wind and these questions need to be asked.

    Ken and I have been blogging and video blogging before YouTube and and Facebook existed, and both of us were early adopters to many of these type services. We've gone through early adopter utopia, had our doubts, and perhaps leveled off at this point. That's why I tend to provide "wait a minute" comments on social media as the hype intensifies.

    Second, there are security issues with social media from many perspectives. I won't elaborate on them since this is an area that is covered well. I simply point it out because it's equally a question to be asked on who you are marketing to with Facebook. Do you really know. People hide their names or make up names for various reasons which by their very nature is deceptive. It's easier to vent anger anonymously, it's convenient to be negative when faceless, and could equally be advantageous to be fictitious when commenting about other people's product or service. That's why I tend to say "focus on your own site" and use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other sites intelligently – don't drown in the flood of hype.

  5. "Friend" on Facebook is analogous to an "A" in the presence of grade inflation. If grading is not on a curve, then an A no longer means you are in the top 5 or 10%, and is essentially  meaningless.  If you have 480 friends with the only criteria being to get a large number of them, then "friend" is likewise essentially meaningless.
    So, I agree that its gullibility, not technology or security that is playing a dominant role.

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