The new Facebook feature appears to many pundits to be another Facebook disaster in the making. If you’ve spent any time at all on the social media site, you can list a number of “upgrades” or “new features” that have caused the Facebook community to scream in outrage. Facebook definitely has a history of doing things that upset users a great deal.
Your Wall Became Your Timeline
Remember when your Facebook “Wall” became your Facebook “Timeline?” Very few of my friends actually liked it. “How do I find –?” “Where did — go?” “This is too confusing! I want my Wall back!”
However, Facebook didn’t listen, and we’re still stuck with the Timeline.
Facebook and Privacy Issues
Since its inception, Facebook hasn’t been terrible when it comes to the privacy concerns of its user base. Not terrible, but far from good. I know several people that have left, never to return because of Facebook privacy issues. Even worse, communicating directly with Facebook is seemingly impossible and you can forget feeling like they’ve listened to your concerns.
We already know that the company shares information about us with advertisers, so they can better target us for advertisements on every page we see. It isn’t enough that these advertisers can make assumptions about our interests based upon our groups and conversations that are public. It appears that Facebook has also occasionally shared information garnered from monitoring closed groups as well.
There has been increasing concern from the Facebook community, over the past 18 months or so, when it comes to privacy issues. Do they share information with the NSA and other alphabet soup government agencies, or not? We’ll probably never know for sure, but the general consensus is that yes, they do share information about users without our permission.
The Forbes story linked above discusses a study which raises one of the most serious privacy concerns I’ve seen. Basically, Facebook was being used by shady characters as a database for photo identification. All someone with nefarious intent has to do is scan through some pictures to identify someone to target and then watch their Timeline to obtain information that we would normally want to keep private.
There’s also the fact that some people just can’t seem to keep information like “Hawaii here I come!” off their Timelines. Your house, meanwhile, is now open to burglars. We won’t even go into Facebook’s own facial recognition software for automatic photo tagging (German legal authorities feel that alone might be a grievous breach of privacy, but that’s a different story altogether.)
Helping Advertisers Convert More Customers
A new Facebook feature was recently announced on their blog (October 2013) and their Facebook announcements page. Not many people know about this blog, but I recommend you bookmark it, since they do tend to post most updates here.
Read that first sentence carefully. “Today we’re announcing new features for mobile app ads that can help businesses drive engagement and conversions within their apps.” What this means is that they’ve made it possible for advertisers to more easily convert mobile app users into customers. Not surprisingly, there isn’t anything in that sentence about protecting the privacy of those mobile app users.
This New Facebook “Feature” Has Many Very Concerned
The new Facebook feature described above is nothing, though, when compared to the most recent announcement. This “feature” is terrifying. Imagine if you will, you’re sitting at home watching an episode of your favorite TV show with your cell phone on the coffee table in front of the TV, but the Facebook app is closed. No problem, right? OK, now imagine that you open the app to check to see what your friends have been saying, only to discover several ads offering you full seasons on DVD of the TV show you just finished watching.
Another likely scenario might be you’re at work and have your phone on your desk and you’re listening to your favorite musician or band on the radio or online. Now, during your break, you pop the app open to check your activity and maybe make a status update and you’re deluged with ads to buy the complete discography or your favorite band, or maybe a bio of their lead singer, or even their latest album.
How does this happen, you might ask? How it happens is that the new Facebook feature is an update to their mobile app, which lets the app take over the microphone on your phone or tablet and listen to the environment the device is in. Without you knowing it. Even worse, the app will post that you’re watching/listening for you. Again, without you telling it to.
Sure, Facebook says that this functionality is turned off by default. However, they’ve told us a few times in the past something that has turned out to be false. They also say that this “feature” will only be included in the iOS and Android versions of the Facebook mobile app. Personally I’m not taking any chances. I’ve uninstalled the Facebook app from my Nokia Lumia 720.
What do you think about this new Facebook feature? Do you think it’s a good idea or is a horrendous breach of privacy? Let me know what you think in the comments section below.