Blog Post

I Made The Wrong Choice With Facebook

Yes, the new Facebook changes have caused a typical storm of user outrage: “You’ve changed things! How dare you!”

But I think this storm is different this time.

I’ve used to monitor the music I listen to for years now. With my permission, captures songs I listen to on my phone, my laptop, the computer connected to the hifi, and lists them. All 43,000 songs I’ve listened to since August 2006.

I cobbled together a stalkerfeed with available information about me on the internet. This includes a lot of information: but, again, information I’m happy to share.

Yet, the impending timeline – and the already-existing top-right ticker – has made many people I talk to concerned about what Facebook is doing. The idea of easily going back in history via someone’s timeline concerns people. And it even concerns ME. The fact Facebook now posts whenever I read articles by The Guardian is spooky and weird: I don’t want people knowing that stuff, that’s too personal.

Using Media UK, I could flag up “xxxxxx is using Media UK”, “xxxxxx is using the job section of Media UK”, “xxxxxx is reading a job vacancy on Media UK” – which would flagrantly abuse privacy of my users. I won’t do that; but I worry that, if The Guardian does it, it’ll be seen as “normal”.

I now know of people who are now planning to stop using Facebook completely. Not just geeks like Dave Winer, or Nik Cubrilovic, but radio people (SomaFM removing “all like buttons for privacy’s sake“), and normal people who aren’t into this stuff at all, but just concerned about the future.

Which means I think I made the wrong decision when I moved to Facebook Connect for Media UK’s user system. And, doubtless, the next few weeks will be coding a new membership system, and discussion system, which no longer uses Facebook. And I was hoping to be coding new features, not replacements based on a lack of trust and transparency.

I felt the right thing to do would be to use Facebook’s system to handle user accounts. Seems I was wrong.

(Was I? I’d be grateful for your comments).

Later: Media UK has now changed its social media sharing buttons as a result of these, and other, comments.

This article originally appeared in Media UK.

15 Responses to “I Made The Wrong Choice With Facebook”

  1. Billy Zane

    used it briefly a while back to see what it was all about and gave up quickly (didnt use my real name).
    I dont need more ‘friends’ that I dont really know or waste more time online than I do
    and if someone I know needs to reach me, my phone number has been the same for 20yrs. (or SMS when Im in a meeting).
    And if someone wants to send me a picture or video or joke or link, they can email me from any computer-phone because its universal. (I share pix through Flickr and other such)
    maybe im an old fart and maybe its because ive been through the geocities (look ma, i have a web page) phase, the Classmates craze, myspace, beebo, and everything in between but FB gives me too little for what it demands from me.

    But as the years move on, the sheer amount of times Ive said “Im happy I decided not to use it” has been staggering.  This latest episode is just the latest episode and wont be the last because of their business model: your information.

    ive had my sister in law being stalked by an ex girlfriend of her brothers because she leaves all her information on FB like where she works.
    Ive seen people get in trouble over their FB content at work including one who was fired (for being stupid and posting pictures that only his 500 or so closest ‘friends’ could see.)
    i work in investigations and identity theft has absolutely skyrocketed the past 10 yrs and yet people will still willingly devulge tons of precious info.

    you made the wrong choice but at least you admit your error.
    its the first step to curing any FB addiction.

  2. After reading this post I was surprised the author said that by reading an article on The Guardian, Facebook would record my activity on my profile. I tested it by reading an article – as I expected, nothing showed on my profile. My guess is that this is because I never gave The Guardian’s Facebook application permission to post to my profile – in fact, I never installed The Guardian’s application because I don’t have any reason to – I can read the site’s articles without an application.

    Of course, if I had installed an application for a website, or had used Facebook Connect to login to a website, I would *expect* that site to be able to post to my profile, as long as I had agreed to that permission setting. Facebook applications have been doing this for years, and Facebook’s privacy / security settings have given users ways to control this for years.

    My guess is that there is something new going on here, or else I wouldn’t be seeing so many people talk about it, but what is new? As far as I can tell, what the author of the post mentioned is *not* new (and doesn’t even concern me, since I can control it very easily).

    Any thoughts?

  3. Thanks Tim, much appreciated.

    This is a scary development. Would you mind clarifying this statement:

    “just *reading* an article could end up being reported on Facebook if that site has set it up to do so and you have approved that site in the past”

    By this, do you mean Facebook might ‘share’ what I’m looking at if I had previously signed into a site using Facebook (something I’ve taken pains never to do)? Surely Facebook can only report what on sites we’ve previously ‘given our permission’ for Facebook to interact with – even if that was only by (naively) doing something as innocent as signing in via Facebook? Or will it be more ‘frictionless’ than that?

    If Facebook starts reporting everything I’m doing online – which isn’t all that interesting, but even so – then I’ll delete all my content, remove every friend and deactivate my account, never to return. As will just about everyone else I know.

    If you – or anyone – has any links for further reading I’d be immensely grateful. Just having to be concerned about this – having to waste part of my day thinking about it and looking into it – makes me think that it’s time to close my account. Perhaps that’s no bad thing….

  4. “The fact Facebook now posts whenever I read articles by The Guardian is spooky and weird”

    Surely this only happens if you ‘Like’ the page. I haven’t seen any posts telling me what my friends have been looking at while surfing. Is this scaremongering for the sake of an article, or is everything we do online about to be reported on Facebook in realtime? I can’t see how their T&Cs could cover reporting EVERYTHING we do without our explicit consent.

    Would someone mind explaining?

    • You can turn parts of it off, but yes just *reading* an article could end up being reported on Facebook if that site has set it up to do so and you have approved that site in the past (or after doing so in the future).

      I was happy with the “like”/”recommend” buttons posting to Facebook, but now they are moving towards “frictionless sharing” where the user shares by default. They are making the move because they claim that whilst people wanted to share this data, the single click was too much effort.

    • No, you don’t need to “Like” the page from within facebook, you only need to use facebook connect to login to any other site. A lot of people don’t seem to remember that doing that allows facebook to monitor anything they do on that, or any other site that they login to using facebook connect. 

      • …and of course, know that you don’t have to log in to facebook connect, or “like” something for facebook to track you on a site that has “like” buttons. You simply have to have logged into facebook once. when you do that, they place a cookie on your browser and when you travel to a site that either has a like button or facebook connect, they can know that you’ve been there. in other words, the “like” buttons themselves transmit to your cookie, and back to facebook that you’ve been there.

        this has been a widely reported story over the last couple of days, and facebook’s been playing PR damage control.

  5. I’m very concerned about it too, but our site is heavily invested in Facebook. Not utterly dependent on it, but all the same it is an important driver of traffic – it’s usually in our top 3 in Google Analytics. We’re not ready to act one way or the other yet, but I am keeping an eye open for these kinds of articles. It’ll be interesting to hear down the line whether you feel Media UK has suffered for removing the monitoring by Facebook.
    Thanks for the post.

  6. it’s beaconing all over again…feeding the “graph” (and Big Data) at the expense of personal choice and privacy. pretty arrogant to assume this is what users want, and therefore to impose it as a huge second-coming-like benefit. like beaconing, facebook will have to roll back most of this when their users realize that their media consumption is in full auto-view of not only their friends, but facebook, their advertisers. and app partners. classic overreach going on here, and they’ll likely be punished for it by their users. get ready for the big PR crisis discussion in a few months.