We all knew it before we signed up; but that doesn’t make it right. Time after time, the social media behemoth, Facebook, reminds us that they hold our privacy in the same esteem as NASA holds Pluto.
From their not-so-brilliant Timeline feature of early 2012, to their newer Couples feature that threatens to increase privacy leaks, the decision-makers at Menlo Park seem to have a hard time with the balancing act of advertising and consumer privacy.
The way the Couples Pages works is innocuous enough, unless you don’t actually want pictures of you and your significant other gathered from areas on Facebook on which you’ve been tagged. Worse still, these images are then placed on a single page without your consent.
And judging from the backlash, it looks like Facebook might want to start reconsidering their current business model of rolling out wholesale changes first, and then releasing apologetic explanations later.
People tend to remember being treated as an afterthought – especially when they are consumers that drive your success. It leaves a bad taste in their mouth, making them prone to being suspicious of any future changes.
The fact that you have no say over whether this page comes down or not makes it worse; you have to manually be careful of what you put up in the future. It’s a clear message from Facebook that your wishes are of little consequence; particularly when they conflict with the faceless legions of advertisers that paid Facebook $1.3 billion – as reported in an average (good) month.
This puzzling decision to make the Couples Pages a mandatory feature turns the volume up on the murmurs that Facebook might eventually be its own worst enemy. It’s supposed to be your page, and yet you don’t even have the option to delete the computer-proscribed matchmaking. What if you’re not even dating the person who’s been tagged as your significant other?!
While benefiting from the generally more reliable sense of community that social networks tout as an advantage over search results from Google, Facebook seems to be slowly violating that very feature. In recent years, they’re becoming more and more transparently advertiser-oriented.
After all, how many people would even opt out of Couples Pages if given the choice, had it been presented in a better fashion? There’s probably a sizable percentage of “true” couples that would be intrigued by it and choose to keep the update, and the social network giant would have preserved some consumer goodwill. Even an illusion of choice is better than no choice at all – from the perspective of an advertising company, at least.
Nonetheless, even if Facebook does lose momentum some day, it will more likely be a descent through molasses than one experiencing the full brunt of gravity. People, it would seem, still like it too much to quit – despite the clearly loose-play with privacy. Despite this latest issue involving Couples Pages, they’re still going strong – perhaps they’re too big to fail? Until something better comes along, that is.
Back in the earlier days of the web – remember those? They weren’t much longer than 5 or ten years ago – the general consensus among security experts was never to use your real name or other very personal information online.
Today, social media not only needs it; but more often than not, demands it and enforces it: there are too many applications integrated with Facebook and others that absolutely require you to use your real information.
In fact, Facebook has gone so far as to actually demand that, if you get banned from their site for less than nefarious purposes, you photocopy your government identification card, and send it to their maximally trustworthy and utterly safe guardians of the universe where it couldn’t possibly fall into the wrong hands due to the negligence of human gatekeepers.
With all the positive projections for how Facebook and its Couples Pages will fare as the months stretch to years, one wonders if these projections are taking into account the human toll on a company that doesn’t seem to care about relationship management. While it’s generally good to be the first to succeed in an endeavor, Facebook probably shouldn’t bet on being the first company to succeed when it ignores the attribute of relationship management completely.