Facebook Connections Be Damned

I have been using Facebook for around 3 years now. I originally set up my Facebook account at the same time as I was setting up Myspace and Bebo accounts to connect with students when I heavily involved in student politics. At the end of 2008 when I finished my stint in the political arena I deleted my Bebo and Myspace profiles but kept my Facebook account. The key reason for me keeping my Facebook account was due to critical mass. I had so many friends on Facebook the majority of whom are from High School and it was a good way to keep tabs on who was where and doing what. However Facebook’s latest move to make more of my details public has me convinced that Facebook is nothing more than a mass identity theft ring.

This morning when I logged into my Facebook account I was presented with a pop up box asking me to connect my personal info – workplaces, schools and colleges, and likes to public pages. It was either tick a box to connect or untick not to connect, there was no way to see the content of the pages that would be linked to before confirming or denying the connection. To see what this new development entailed I click on select all and connect for my profile thinking that the workplace connections would correctly link through to the fan pages for these companies. The annoying thing is they didn’t. Instead they linked through to automatically generated info pages about each of my workplaces, schools, and likes.

The first thing I noticed about these automatically generated pages is they brought a lot of content across from Wikipedia. Now Facebook do have a nice little disclaimer on the bottom of each automatically generated page claiming: “Description above from the Wikipedia article Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, licensed under CC-BY-SA“. However I wonder if they are actually violating the terms of the license by using the content and then only claiming that section of the page is covered by that copyright license. It is clear to me that they are building the rest of the page on top of that. In particular if they state “Our goal is to make this Community Page the best collection of shared knowledge on this topic. If you have a passion for Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, sign up and we’ll let you know when we’re ready for your help.” If Facebook does not license these new pages under the CC-BY-SA license then I expect some form of lawsuit.

Anyway this copyright discussion has me side tracked a little. What I am most pissed off about is the way that Facebook through this connection thingy in my face and now I have no way of disabling links to connections I do not want to share links to. Just because I worked at Kathmandu, a clothing store in NZ, Aus and the UK does not mean I want a connection to Kathmandu, Nepal. And just because I like the book 1984 does not mean that I want a connection to all the George Orwell fans out there. Now I realise that prior to these connections you could search for people based on the information that you provided in your likes and workplaces sections. But this new addition goes well beyond finding people through it. If people want to find me by a certain keyword that I list that is cool, but to just throw a whole page together and say I like this thing with no way of disabling it once it is enabled and no clear instructions on what you are accepting is wrong.

This is the first time Facebook has really pissed me off over a privacy matter. As a response I have removed all my work history and about half of my likes. Furthermore I am seriously considering “deactivating” my account, I would delete it but Facebook doesn’t give you that option.

Update: There is a Facebook Blog Post on this subject, reading it is scary enough but the comments are pretty telling in how pissed off people are about this. Essentially the gist of the post is any info you list will be public and if you don’t won’t it public don’t list it.

Update 2: I have been reading through some of the 3,000+ comments on the Facebook Blog Post. Some of the more pointed ones:

You created a Community Page for MY company that I OWN – and I cannot control what’s on it.

NOT COOL.

This feature is terrible. On a personal level, you hosed all of my interests when you added it. On a professional level, you have created a duplicate page for my organization, the U-M (University of Michigan) Ginsberg Center. We already have a facebook community page for ourselves; now when people add us as an interest or an employer there will be a new page created. You guys really need to start thinking the implications of these changes through before you make them.

I happen to like my “boring text”. You should give people the option to either keep it the old way or go with this new way.

I really HATE the links to everything in my profile. I cannot personalize it the way I want or say what I want – I DO NOT WANT LINKS TO EVERYTHING I HAVE ON MY PROFILE!! I want to be able to write what I want on my profile and everything does not HAVE to be linked! This is the most assinine change you have made to date. You talk about privacy issues – where’s the privacy in linking to the town where I live or my hometown or my schools that I attended or my work? THIS IS A TOTAL INVASION OF MY PRIVACY!! My whole family is on FB (75 of us) and we are seriously contemplating switching back to MySpace or Twitter!

This is ridiculous. I just deleted all of my interests, etc, etc, etc because of you FORCING ME to “like” something. Facebook has become infantile and archaic . If you want to charge for facebook, then charge – but don’t force me to contribue to your revenue and ad clicking by forcing my PERSONAL interests to be linked to some idiotic page you wrote on what you think my interest actually is.

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