The difficulty I have with privacy controls on Facebook

I’m not a regular user of Facebook. I’ve joined a long time ago, have given it a few tries and then stopped using it. There are many reasons I don’t use it. I’ve written a post a long time ago and provided 5 reasons why I felt Facebook sucks. I’m about to add a few new reasons to that.

6. I’m getting spammed by 3rd party apps, and can’t get rid of it easily

In my attempts to get back into Facebook I noticed that the nr of requests from 3rd party applications vastly outnumbered the nr of friend requests. One could argue that I simply do not have a lot of friends, but I am inclined to observe that a lot of the traffic Facebook generates comes from users installing 3rd party applications not realizing they are spamming their friends at the same time.

I figured I’d take a look at my own settings today. To my surprise I had several applications running I wasn’t aware of:

Applications I seem to have authorized on Facebook

Applications I seem to have authorized on Facebook

The only applications I recall installing are photos, videos and a game called Packrat. Now I may very well have forgotten I also allowed Ads & Pages, Gifts, Slide funspace, but I sure has hell haven’t used these apps in the past month (wasn’t logged in), even though Facebook tells me I did.

I seem to have used Gifts the last month even though I barely logged into Facebook

I seem to have used Gifts the last month even though I barely logged into Facebook

In my quest to disable all applications I ran into several problems. I first couldn’t understand where to do this.

Deleting apps from Facebook?

Deleting apps from Facebook?

I ended up opening the applications that I seem to have added to my profile. In that overview there are little crosses I can press and I assume it means the application is then removed from my profile. Notice how Slide Funspace is greyed out, suggesting I successfully removed it. However, a page refresh brings it back alive again? Another attempt then. I open the view that shows the apps I am supposed to have been using in the past month. I press the little cross there and there I seem to have more luck:

Removing an app from my Facebook profile

Removing an app from my Facebook profile

Finally, it's gone

Finally, it's gone

Removing apps from my “Apps used in the last month” view is a bit complicated to say the least.But that isn’t all. I go back to another view, called ‘Allowed to Post’:

Why can Gifts post to my profile and that of my friends?

Why can Gifts post to my profile and that of my friends?

Huh? It took me 10min to figure out how to remove Gifts from my apps, and now I see that it actually is still appearing in this view. Gifts can still post to my newsfeed and even worse, it can post to my friends newsfeed too? Notice that there is no cross available for me to remove this, and worse there seems to be no way for me to get rid of Gifts? This is getting really annoying now. I do not want to receive or send out electronic gift to anyone, and I can’t figure out how to get rid of it.

7. Privacy settings are in sight (good), difficult to use (not good) and the ones that matter are buried deep and default to the wrong behavior (evil)

On to my privacy settings next. I like the fact that Facebook gives Privacy settings a prominent place in the interface and doesn’t bury them somewhere deep in a menu structure. My initial enthusiasm disappears quite fast as I dive into them. The settings may be there, but they are by no means easy to use. Instead of providing me 1 view of every privacy setting there is, I get a menu structure and worse, tabs within that menu structure (didn’t even see them at first).

In my newsfeed settings there turns out to be the setting I was looking for. Facebook, by default, seems to be using my profile picture to appear in ‘Social Advertisement’. I seem to be endorsing ads to my friends and I didn’t know about that. Facebook immediately provides me a popup explaining that it isn’t Facebook that is doing that. It is the fault of 3rd party apps. Sorry guys, you can’t put responsibility away like that. The user is naive (yes, I am too), and 3rd parties are evil, but if you take privacy serious, then you can’t blame anyone else for this.

Facebook struggling with Social Advertisement

Facebook struggling with Social Advertisement

Advertisement needs to be opt-in, a conscious decision, not a side-effect of installing an app or even joining Facebook in the first place. It turns out that Facebook by default uses me and my information for advertisement purposes to my friends. Worse, there seems to be no way for me to stop Facebook from doing that.

Facebook Social Advertisement defaults to friends only

Facebook Social Advertisement defaults to friends only

I don’t want to be part of ‘Social Advertisement’ and I sure as hell don’t want my friends to see that either.  Facebook explains how my information is used for advertisement purposes towards friends, but I cannot turn that off (evil). Notice the big warning at the bottom that frees Facebook from all responsibility when it comes to 3rd party app behavior. I still do not know if I will now never appear in any advertisement, whether it is Facebook or a 3rd party app?

8. I have no control over advertisement on Facebook (evil) and Facebook does a poor job displaying relevant ads (bad)

Here is my profile, the way others can see it:

What is the relevancy of the ads on the right?

What is the relevancy of the ads on the right?

Notice the advertisement on the right side. Facebook knows everything about me and my friends. They track us down, store every little detail about us and our interactions and what do they come up with? A ‘Strategic Marketing’ ad, a ‘Dating’ ad, and a ‘Business card’ ad! WTF? After all this big brother data crunching, these are the most relevant ads you can show? The friend that is looking at my profile is married and has 2 kids (I’m married too, have 4 kids, but I haven’t told Facebook that). A $15 Bln valuation and 5 years of user data harvesting, and all Facebook comes up with is these ads? I’m offended by the fact that Facebook finds it relevant to show dating ads next to my profile, but I’m even more shocked by the fact that they seem to be unable to show anything really relevant, given the fact that they know all about us.

After writing this I noticed another post of someone with very similar experiences.  Facebook may take privacy seriously but their business model forces them continuously to cross a thin line from protecting the user to protecting their advertisement scheme.


About vanelsas

See my about page, ;-)
This entry was posted in business model, Facebook, on-line advertisement, privacy, Social Advertisement and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The difficulty I have with privacy controls on Facebook

  1. Good observation. I’m also shocked by the poor advertisement relevancy. I’m a big fan of GMail and Google displays ads next to my email, even as I’m writing a message. They do display ads that might just make sense. At the very least I can pinpoint why they displayed a specific ad as there was a specific keyword somewhere.

    When I first found out about how facebook works and how they advertise, I figured they would be able to push very relevant ads, but now that they don’t, I think they might just be fighting a loosing battle.

  2. dave says:

    Hey, your observations are true.

    yes faceboook is just a data mining piece of crap.

    yes, it’s only a matter of time before the free web is corporate crap.

    I’m hating web 2.0 already, it is so bogus and filled with pre-teen nonsense junk.

    kinda like facebook. lol

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s