Up until now, I have not once been angry and upset at Facebook over privacy issues, interface changes, or feature enhancements. From a brand marketing perspective, I’ve been annoyed here and there with Facebook updates but only because it’s generally a challenge for community managers to stay abreast of social media advancements in addition to the always-on aspect of community management.
But Facebook’s newest changes — Timeline, Ticker, Stories — have me furious. Specifically, I’m talking about how Facebook has really screwed us over by allowing social apps — BY DEFAULT — to see and post our online activities even if we have not clicked to share specific content.
I’m betting the majority of Facebook users don’t remember which social apps are associated to their accounts — and it’s not their fault. There are plenty of instances when you might not be aware (or remember) a social app has been added to your Facebook account. For instance, have you ever read an article on CNN and then clicked on the Facebook “Recommend” or “Like” button within the article?
The first time you share to Facebook from sites with social apps, a pop-up box displays asking you to grant that site permission to access your Facebook information. If you click on “Allow,” you add the CNN app to your Facebook account.
Once you’ve added the app, anytime you “Recommend” or “Like” content on CNN, that action will appear in your Facebook newsfeed.
That doesn’t sound too nefarious, right? Well, it wasn’t until Facebook’s newest changes. Now, these social apps can post your online activity even if you don’t take an action such as clicking to share or posting a comment. So for example, the CNN app can post to Facebook that you’re reading an article about STDs, watching a work-inappropriate video, or viewing photos of transsexual midgets. Even if your interests in those topics have no personal relevancy, are you okay with what others may think or assume about you when they see your activity in Facebook’s ticker? My opinion: I want complete control over what I broadcast to the Internet. When I want to share specific content, I will take action to do so. Otherwise, it’s not okay to automatically broadcast my passive online activities.
Facebook does allow you to customize app permissions. But guess what? They’ve designed it so the default setting for auto-sharing is ON for ALL apps. Worse, Facebook does not make it easy to disable this auto-sharing feature. As of now, you must either remove all apps completely or modify each app individually. What’s missing is something in between — an easy setting that disables the auto-sharing feature across all apps — without necessarily removing the apps. After all, I do want to retain certain share features, such as the ability to click “Like” from my favorite websites at my own choosing.
So for me, that means I have to spend several hours customizing my Facebook apps — all 131 of them:
My hope is that Facebook is still making tweaks to its new platform so by the time everyone has migrated to the new Facebook format and platform, this privacy issue and a few other UI hiccups will be resolved. Let’s wait and see what happens.