>Facebook, groups, and the straw that may break my back.

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Facebook, groups, and the straw that may break my back.
by Privacy and Security Guide on Thursday, 05 May 2011 at 14:03

Those of you who have been with me a while know that I rarely put personal opinion here.  I like to give advice and relay verified news on topics relating to your privacy and security on this website.  However today I’m getting personal. With pictures and quotes, and even a witty phrase or two.  But mostly rant.  You are forewarned, so don’t feel compelled to read on. 
Yesterday Facebook’s privacy page posted about a man who lost his memory and is using Facebook to rebuild them.  Facebook is now going to remove all the old-style groups, and only allow a handful of groups to upgrade and take their members with them when those groups are forcibly upgraded. The rest of the groups will have their members forcibly removed.  Discussion topics will be converted to wall posts, lost in a sea of other posts. I wonder how many of this man’s memories that Facebook is claiming to be responsible for are kept in this man’s chosen groups, which are about to be archived?
I personally dislike new format groups.  With old style groups it was my choice to join them.  With new format groups, people are forcibly added by their friends who probably think they are sending invits.  ‘Added’ people will be automatically added to the group without their consent or maybe even their knowledge of the group.   If you are added to a new group, it will show up on your wall and all your friends news feeds.  You can only leave when you find out you were added.  Rather like un-tagging.  And you all know how I feel about tagging, and the fact that Facebook won’t allow us to approve tags before they are placed….
Facebook invites us to create a group because, in Mark Zuckerberg’s words:
“It’s a simple way to stay up to date with small groups of your friends and to share things with only them in a private space.”
This is a lie.  I can say that because I asked one of the engineers to clear up my confusion, which I’ll share with you, and his reply:
And part of my reply:
“Thank you for taking the time to reply Feross.  So the answer to my question is no, there is no tool or function which allows the creator to stop anyone else adding others to the group they created, and instead you are hoping that users will be accountable.  The difficulty with this idealism is that no one at Facebook has told all of the 500 million users the rules. I was added to two Groups by people who simply thought that the Invite button had been renamed, and that I would still have to give my consent to join the group.  Outside of the well behaved or well-informed Facebook networks. no one had any idea that new rules were in place because the new product was also called ‘Groups’. They weren’t being jerks.”
At that point a well known journalist added this comment in reply to Feross:
“‘Should’ is a poor business model.”
Feross declined to comment further.   Possibly because I had won the point.  And I don’t blame him, he’s an engineer working hard for his employer. He didn’t create new groups and at least took the time to reply to me.  But since then nothing has changed, and so Mark Zuckerberg’s statement that new groups are a private place for you and your friends to share is a little more than misleading, when no one can prevent people adding their own friends which you might not know.
I want to use Facebook the way its tagline sells itself – ‘to connect and share with the people in your life’.  I’m perfectly happy to share information and click a ‘like’ button here and there in return for the use of the products on this site.  And in fairness, most of the products are very very cool.  I’m not trouncing what Facebook is about.  But it’s just getting to be too much hard work to justconnect and share with the poeple in my life.   Every new privacy setting is set to ‘enable’ or ‘everyone’ by default, which means that I have to go check them. 
My platform apps has been switched back on by Facebook 4 times.  So yes, while Facebook gives me the tools to control my data, how much of my information was shared to my friends apps when Facebook turned platform apps back on without my knowlege or consent?  The only way to stop anything from being published in the news feed is to set that entire information section to ‘Only Me’, which means that if I don’t want my new likes published to the news feed, I also have to hide allmy likes from my friends until enough time has passed and I can show them again.   I want to connect and share, not be forcibly added and broadcast my wares.  And frankly Facebook is supposed to be a pleasant distraction, not something you should have to work at or check over and over.
The groups I admin do not have the option to upgrade.  All members will be forcibly removed.  All their discussion topics will be turned into wall posts and lost in a sea of wall posts.    And if Facebook forcibly adds me to a group after prompting people to add me, that will be my final day on Facebook.    I joined Facebook to have fun sharing with the people in my life.  Now it’s seeing friends get scammed from threats in the news feeds or chat which Facebook won’t remove, constantly checking privacy settings to see if Facebook has activated new ones to ‘enabled’,  being tagged with no way to prevent it beforehand, and now seeing one more thing which was fun and had meaning removed by the company which needs our input to survive. 
Facebook, I used to love it here.  But it’s become too much work to stay safe from the third-party scam apps which you allow on your platform and don’t vet first.  Privacy settings are sneaked in and enabled by default.  Your social plugins track my movements on millions of websites.  You removed the news feed and wall privacy settings after Mark Zuckerberg gave his word that people would be able to control their data in a blog entitled ‘We really messed this one up’ (http://ja-jp.facebook.com/blog.php?post=2208562130)
Now you are removing people’s original groups.  They were areas where people with similar interests could discuss something that personally mattered to them, and Facebook respectfully that’s not always your own friends. One of my friends is devastated that a support group she created isn’t being given the option to upgrade.  Facebook, what are you going to do for all the people who have joined victim support groups?  Where will you be after you forcibly remove them from those groups?  
Facebook at some point the price for connecting and sharing will become too high for even the most hardened supporters.  Keep removing the fun and meaningful functions, and gradually there won’t be much left for people to ‘like’ at all.  Personally, I’m not sure I want to stay on the ride much longer.  Everything personal to my profile page has been removed.  My likes and interests are your choice of ‘page’.  Old deleted posts come back in the form of ‘Memories’.  If I wanted to rememeber them, I wouldn’t have deleted them.  My about me section has been forcibly removed.  My status or current state of being is relegated down the page while you place my personal information at the top like a cheap and tacky online dating cv (which all of my friends know anyway).  My ability to control what I share has been diminished.  My ability to protect myself from scam apps is lacking, scams which you won’t remove from the platform.  How ironic – old groups have to go but scam apps can stay…?   Scammers are now phototagging users which they can’t prevent, or urging people to post javascript codes which scam their friends, to which there is no protection.  And not only will you not warn all your users about them, you try to prevent others from warning them too.
Facebook, here’s my very personal opinion.  Stop fiddling with it, or it will drop off.  Fix the functions that are broken. If you can’t work on the email product while the site is running without risking thousands of emails being sent to the wrong people and then publishes on the net, give all your users notice and do it properly (http://facebookprivacyandsecurity.wordpress.com/anomaly/).  Remove the scam apps and vet all new apps to protect your users.  Stop closing down pages which exist to try and protect your users from the scams and threats that you won’t remove.  And give us all a little piece of Facebook we can call our own, which is a small ask considering that our data has put a price tag of $50 Billion on the site. Instead of taking away everything that made me want to join in the first place, give me a reason to stay. 
The end…. which may be nigh for my Facebook days.  

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