Under the hood – Revealing the Inner Phuser. Part 1

In this occasional series I’ll be explaining a little about how phuser works and what makes it different to most social networking sites.

GroupPart 1 – How phuser protects your privacy

Newcomers to phuser are often confused. This is partly because our content & help review is still pending (it is coming, we promise!), but mostly it’s because phuser isn’t what they’re used to.

A simple example: When you join MySpace or Facebook, you immediately see lots of ‘friends’ and lots of activity. There’s a buzz – you get an instant reward just for signing up.  When you join phuser, you might well see NOTHING! Where is everybody? Where’s the action?

The first thing to remember is that phuser is all about your real friends, and your real activities. So there is a little work to be done to get started (and we are working hard to reduce this barrier), but the pay-off is that much more rewarding.

So let’s have a quick look at some of the design goals intended to protect your privacy on phuser: 

1 – Your phuser network should reflect your real-life social network
Not only ‘who’s in‘, but ‘who can see who and what‘.  Think about people you know in real-life.  You probably part of several different groups of people – pub-mates, college friends, local sports club, family, other relatives, colleagues, clients.  How would you like to expose these groups to each other? With phuser, you decide, and you’re in control.
Of course, phuser is smart but it’s not clairvoyant.  This means you have to tell it about the people in your life, and how they relate. We’re working on ways to make this easier!

2 – You must invite someone to your phuser network before you interact with them
It’s simple courtesy really! Before you can involve someone in one of your phuses (for phuse, think private shared space) that person must be in your phuser network, or at least invited to it.

3 – A user should only be allowed to contact someone else using normal contact details already known to that user.
If you think that’s a clumsy mouthful you should have read the draft! All it means is that you must already know the email address or mobile number of anyone you want to invite or contact through phuser.  If your contact details match those of someone on phuser then great (but, see item 6!).  Otherwise that person will be contacted via email or SMS using only the contact details you provided.

4 – Let the show go on…
Phuser lets you interact with friends who haven’t yet accepted your invitation to join their network. They don’t even need to join phuser (although they can do more if that do!). This is OK, thanks to (3) – remember, phuser is not allowing contact that you couldn’t make already.

5 – …but always respect the privacy of a user’s phuser profile!
Only once an invitation is accepted is that person’s phuser profile revealed to the sender.  And by profile we don’t just mean personal details, but friends, network relationships and whether or not the person is even registered on phuser!

6 – Identity is to be guarded
A user’s contact details are sacred.  Email address and username are never revealed, even to friends in your network.  More subtly, it shouldn’t be possible to ‘guess’ someone’s contact details (e.g. by repeatedly creating invitations with random email addresses and seeing which ones return a match on phuser).  This is why phuser won’t reveal whether your invitation ‘matches’ someone on phuser until the recipient decides to accept. (And even that doesn’t mean that those are the details that the recipient has registered with phuser!).

That’s probably enough to be getting on with for now.  I hope this small insight into some of phuser’s privacy features has given you a flavour of the ‘phuser ethos’.  As you can see, the phuser approach is quite different from that of most ‘social networking’ sites.  That’s why we don’t really think of phuser as a social networking site in the normal sense.  Remember – Real Friends, Real Plans, Real Life.

Part 2, on a topic to be decided, coming soon!

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One Response to Under the hood – Revealing the Inner Phuser. Part 1

  1. […] the Inner Phuser Short and sweet: I’ve just posted a ‘backgrounder’ article in the official phuser.com blog,  where I explain some of the privacy features we’ve built […]

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