Maintaining Multiple Personas Online

Michael Zimmer, a fellow at the Information Society Project at Yale Law School, says that he thinks the type of privacy controls offered by Moli will be useful to a certain part of the population. "I'm sort of surprised that it's taken someone this long to let me, through one login, manage multiple identities and personas online," he says. Zimmer notes that it's important for users to feel at ease with privacy controls: he says that he considers some of Facebook's controls, for example, too complex for many users. However, he says, managing who sees what profile information is only "one half of the coin." The other half, as brought out by Beacon, involves what information the site itself has about users, and what the company does with that information. He notes that Moli's strengths in terms of profile management may lead users to trust the site with more personal information than they might otherwise give, and the company would have that information linked to a common e-mail and a common login. Zimmer says that for maximum privacy control, he would like a site to allow him to view what data is being stored about him and to opt in and out.

While Moli does store demographic information about users' activities on the site, Balint says that information is not stored in a personally identifiable way. The site keeps track of how many users of a certain age, for example, access a profile. Users (particularly small-business owners marketing through Moli) can also access this basic demographic data. Balint says that the company developed its own technology to extract demographic data from people visiting profiles without also extracting personally identifiable data. For example, she says, the company keeps statistics on how many females visit a profile, and how many people visit who are in their late twenties, but it does not combine the variables.

Moli recently announced nearly $30 million in new funding from a group of private investors. The company plans to make money through advertising, as well as through small monthly fees paid for premium services, such as the checkout option for small-business owners.

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