Earlier this week I spoke to Tony Roth, president and CEO of Celect.org, a company that provides Web sites and online communities for non-profit organizations such as faith communities, university alumni associations, or collegiate fraternities and sororities. Though Celect.org is a Facebook advocate and has successfully used rich Internet applications within the Facebook model to run several Web sites, the company hasn't yet taken the next step to participate in Facebook Connect.
Why? Celect.org's business is built around providing organizations with online communities. Not the individual members of those organizations, but the organizations themselves. And those services, Roth says, "come with kind of a protectionism clause that says we're not going to enable data share or traffic flow without authorization from the organization itself" Facebook Connect, on the other hand, "is all about giving the user total control of the permissions granted...without a lot of gatekeeping from the Web site per se."
What Roth wants to know is how the organization protects itself from enabling the "sharing" of proprietary membership database information if its members choose to use Facebook Connect. He elaborates on what he sees as the problem -- particularly for non-profit organizations, to which membership data is bread and butter:
If I'm an alumnus at the University of Illinois and I'm supposed to be serving on a committee for a capital campaign for a new stadium, and I decide I'm going to use Facebook Connect and I put my committee members out there because I think this is a cool social party line to use as I log in and out, and as I add my friends or fellow committee members and we share data back and forth,...is that information no longer proprietary to the "user" or organization because I put it through Facebook Connect?
He thinks using Facebook Connect does create shared ownership in the data passed back and forth between the organizational Web site and some third party Web site a member of the organization has decided she wants to share her friend list on. In fact, Roth says that information "will end up being culled, segmented and used for marketing purposes by Facebook."
That, obviously, would not be good for Celect.org's business.