It must be a frustrating week to be a zeitgeist. First, the venerable Times’ speculative report Facebook is buying in to China is flatly denied. Second, Channel 4 makes what may amount to mountains out of molehills over a user’s complaint to the Information Commissioner that it’s too hard to delete a profile. Third, the social net is coming under suspicion for deleting users’ company-specific profiles while simultaneously launching its own social advertising profile facility for clients like Coca-Cola and Microsoft.
– Advertising: That third issue – whereby UK digital media consultancy Broadsight had its profile scrubbed for violating terms of service – would sound like a welcome attempt to clamp down on dodgy social media marketing tactics (companies don’t have profiles, people do) if Facebook’s new ad stream didn’t practice the exact same by letting users become a friend of brands.
We wanted to get behind the headlines, but our efforts to establish whether Facebook now has a policy of deleting those dodgy company profiles, paving the way for such outfits to become official “brand partners”, drew a blank. With no response on that, one must assume the theory Facebook is forcing users to become advertising clients is merely that, and that it only prosecutes individual deletions based on existing terms-of-use violations (still, Broadsight is yet to receive clarification on the reasons for its disappearance).
– Data protection: Facebook wasn’t helped on the data protection issue yesterday when the national interest was piqued by the civil service’s loss of sensitive databases containing records of 25 million citizens. But even the Office of the Information Commissioner (ICO) could scarcely muster heartfelt response to the claim – picked up by Channel 4 – it’s too hard to delete a Facebook profile (“2,504 steps“, quips Steve Mansour). While the stock email response we received confirmed the ICO will look in to the complaint (what The Register calls “an investigation by watchdogs”), it mainly sought to remind users not to put too much personal information online. A Facebook spokesperson told us it is “in full compliance with UK data protection law” and that it’s committed to working with the ICO to ensure that carries on.