Moli: Maintaining Multiple Personas Online, Sharing More Personal Information

Technology Review has a piece discussing the new social networking site, Moli. Moli’s claim to fame is the ability to have multiple social networking profiles linked by a common login, each with its own privacy settings. This can be especially helpful for those (like me) who see a benefit in using SNS, but want to maintain some separation between their personal and professional lives….their personal and professional personae.

This is difficult with Facebook, where those who to use it to help maintain professional contacts and interactions are frequently confronted with vampire bites, invitations to take polls to determine which Harry Potter character you might be, and random gifts of lingerie. Conversely, one might not want her professional colleagues to know about all of her various fetishes, social activities, and the like. If you wanted to maintain a professional profile, while also having a separate presence to “play” with others, you’d have to use separate e-mails and constantly switch your logins between the two.

Moli tries to solve this. And their tagline highlights that the ability to manage separate profiles also helps users “control their privacy.”

(I found it troubling, however, that they required my e-mail, zip code, birthdate and gender to sign up, especially since Latanya Sweeney has shown that 87 percent of Americans can be personally identified by knowing only their zip code, birthdate and gender. Seems I’ve given up a lot of privacy just to sign up for a service that is meant to help me control it.)

Technology Review contacted me to ask if I thought users would be willing to make the effort to manage multiple profiles in order to protect their privacy, and I said that sure, there are always some who are concerned enough about their privacy that they are willing to take extra (perhaps inefficient) steps to protect their personal information. I also noted that I was surprised Facebook hasn’t already done this (note: Facebook does have extensive privacy settings to restrict who can see what about you, but I find their execution overly-complex).

That said, I also expressed concern that Moli, while pitching themselves as privacy-friendly, might actually pose a greater threat to user privacy than Facebook. Given that I have less control over who can see my profile at Facebook, there is some information I’m simply not willing to share on that platform. But since Moli provides me a simple way to manage multiple personae, it is perhaps more likely that I would divulge more personal information. If I can create 4 different personae (say, one highlighting my professional life, one detailing my music and cultural interests, one focusing on my sexual fetishes, and one for my family members), I certainly will be disclosing much more personal information than my single Facebook profile. And while I can set the privacy levels for each profile, Moli gets to see it all….all linked to my single account with a common e-mail address, zip code, birthdate and gender.


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