At least it was according to Oxford University Press USA.

unfriend – verb – To remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook

If I had have seen this reference earlier, I would have certainly scored myself higher than the woeful 10% mark I gave my 2009 prediction of defriending! The comments in the OUP post above on unfriending are very entertaining as many are debating whether the word should really be defriending, but even more are debating the merits of some of the other interesting new words suggested as inclusion in a new version of the dictionary.

To move onto a broader theme in social networking, I want to bring up the issue of privacy again. I was talking to someone recently who told me his 21 year old daughter and her friends we now limiting their use of Facebook and withdrawing the type of information they used to share because of the changes to the privacy settings recently made by Facebook. I’m not close enough to this one to really make a call based on one piece of anecdotal evidence, but on the surface it makes sense. Some scientist might claim to have proved that 150 friends is the maximum really possible, but Facebook probably has bigger things to worry about with the Federal Trade Commission possibly showing interest in the new privacy settings. Still it hasn’t slowed down their growth at all, pulling further away from the competition in December.

I am a big supporter of privacy, but a lot of people miss the point. Back in February 2009 I wrote:

I’m fed up with people overstating the privacy concerns of the general populace, as it is just not matched by consumer behaviour. True, if you ask a man on the street he will tell you he hates the idea of someone else reading his email, but then he signs up for a Gmail account and lets Google read every email in order to serve him relevant advertising. The key difference is that people are happy to share a lot of personal data if they get something for it, and if they think it is a machine and not a person reading that data.

So with that in mind it was very interesting to see Google on their official Gmail blog write recently that users will be even more closely monitored in order to make Google more money.

To show these ads, our systems don’t need to store any extra information — Gmail just picks a different recent email to match. The process is entirely automated: no humans are involved in selecting ads, and no email or personal information is shared with advertisers.

But I do not expect any backlash at all by the average user regarding this change as people have become more comfortable with this sort of thing; it is a machine and not a person reading the data. When Facebook made their changes to privacy settings they opened up previously private information to actual people that the writer may not have originally wanted to see it. Privacy is so much more a people issue than a machine issue, and this is why I keep pushing the importance of airlines making the absolute best use of the valuable information that already exists on passengers, but that sits largely underutilized by most.

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