Facebook: As bad as Wikipedia, or worse?
Posted by Henry Bauer on 2012/03/03
“Talk of the Nation” on Public Radio International a few weeks ago was about photos posted on Facebook that the photographed people did not wish to have posted.
The Facebook engineer on the program explained that Facebook’s criteria for removing photos did not include that those photographed did not wish to have their photos displayed. Facebook would take down photos only if they were obscene, offensive in some manner. Apparently it is not regarded by Facebook as offensive if person A without permission posts a photo of person B and person B finds it offensive to have his or her photo posted without permission. Some of the photos in question were not taken by the people whose faces appear in the photo, nor provided by them to anyone else.
What recourse do people have, whose privacy has been invaded with posted photos?
The engineer suggested that the offended parties get in contact with those who posted the photos and ask that they be removed.
This is just as disingenuous — more precisely, stupid as well as evasive of responsibility — as Wikipedia’s policies and procedures for “negotiation”. They presume — stupidly — that everyone concerned is motivated by decency and collegiality and respect for others’ views and rights.
When person A wishes to inflict harm on person B by posting something derogatory on Wiki or Face, does anyone imagine (other than idiot-savant Wiki or Face computer geeks) that A will then bow to B’s wishes to have the material un-posted?
Facebook and Wikipedia offer free Internet access to anyone who wishes to malign other people, and then they take no responsibility for removing such offense. At some time, surely, enterprising trial lawyers will have another profitable windfall by organizing class action suits by people who have been maligned in this way. I can’t imagine that Facebook and Wikipedia are any more immune from such suits than were the websites that offered file-sharing capabilities so that individuals can share pirated material.
I left Facebook recently for a quite separate reason.
I had joined Facebook because friends suggested it, and in particular because a Rethinking AIDS page was being set up. Over a few years, I accepted as new “friends” anyone recommended by RA people whom I knew, and soon had several hundred.
I never found Facebook useful, though, and in fact didn’t initiate anything on it, I only logged in when I got a notification and almost never entered the given discussions. Facebook for me was just wasted time — an added load into my in-box, another password to remember, more clutter on my computer. Direct e-mail seems to me to make more sense. Still, I stayed because I thought it was a collegial RA thing to do.
Then one day, as I responded to a Facebook notification by signing in — or rather, attempting to sign in — I got a message that new security arrangements made it necessary for me to do one of two things: match photos of 5 or 6 friends with their names, or call a certain phone number.
But I now had hundreds of “friends”, most of whose faces were not familiar to me, let alone the clever avatars some of them had used. So, flunking several tries, I called the phone number.
Over several days, it was always busy.
So I went to the main Facebook page and sent an e-mail to Facebook. I explained the situation and asked for a manageable security arrangement. Here’s the response I got:
Date: Sun, 09 Oct 2011 08:08:51 -0400
You were asked to confirm who you are because our security systems thought you may not be using your real identity with this account or that you may have multiple accounts. If you’ve already tried to log in at http://www.facebook.com and followed the instructions to confirm your identity, but weren’t able to complete the process, we’ll need to see other proof of your identity.
Since you did not fill out the correct contact form, here’s how to proceed:
1. Use a scanner or take a digital photo of a government-issued photo ID (such as a driver’s license or passport), which shows your full first and last name and date of birth.
2. Reply directly to this email and attach the image of your ID to the message.
3. We will confirm that your ID and account information match. As soon as we verify your identity we’ll delete the image of your ID.
Please send an image showing proper identification right away so we can help you get back into your Facebook account. Please note that we will not be able to process your request unless you have submitted the proper identification. Additionally, not submitting proper identification will result in your request being denied.
e apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.
If you have any further questions about this process, please visit our Help Center at the following address:
Thank you for your patience,
The Facebook Team
Before I could respond, I received a duplicate such request, this time signed by what purported to be an individual instead of a Team:
Date: Mon, 10 Oct 2011 14:02:39 -0400
At this time, we can’t verify the ownership of this account. Please reply to this email and attach a digital image of your government-issued identification. We will permanently delete our record of this digital image from our servers once we use it to confirm your identity.
The ID you attach:
- Must be government-issued (ex: passport, driver’s license)
- Must be in color
- Must clearly show your full name, date of birth, and photo
If possible, save this file as a JPEG and cover up any personal information that we don’t need to verify your identity (ex: address, license number). We also recommend sending your attachments over a secure connection. Find out more here: https://www.facebook.com/help/?page=148993491850191.
Note that we need you to send an appropriate ID before we can take any action on your account. Sorry for the inconvenience.
My initial reaction was simply not to have anything more to do with Facebook. But after cooling down for a few hours I replied:
Date: Mon, 10 Oct 2011 19:10:41 -0400
You must be kidding.
When I opened my account, all I provided you was my userID and chosen password. No photo ID or additional personal information from me can prove to you that I’m the person who opened that account.
Your request is more like phishing, to get more personal details from me, than any security procedure to safeguard ME.
If you won’t let me sign in in the manner that was set when the account was opened, forget it. Just close my account, or let it die through disuse.
No response was forthcoming. But a week later I heard from Facebook again:
Date: Mon, 17 Oct 2011 13:22:38 -0400
It looks like your account was suspended by mistake. I’m so sorry for the inconvenience. You should now be able to log in. If you have any issues getting back into your account, please let me know.
I continue to believe that Facebook had been trying to extract from me additional personal information, which they could use for commercial purposes. Possibly it was an exploratory trial with just a few people like me, because no one I have spoken to about this has had a similar experience. At any rate, I decided to sign in and personally, myself, resign, deactivate my account.
If you’ve tried to do that, you know that Facebook doesn’t make it easy. Several links, several procedures, but finally I seemed able to do it. Then I got this confirming message:
Your account has been deactivated
To reactivate your account, log in using your old login email and password. You will be able to use the site like you used to.
We hope you come back soon.
In other words, all activity in my account remains stored by Facebook, and no doubt they continue to count me among the numbers of users that they boast about when trying to attract investors and advertisers.
A month later, I received this curious e-mail:
Date: Tue, 15 Nov 2011 18:42:15 -0500
While perusing the internet, I fell upon your name and some of the articles you have published. I found it extremely interesting that “your” interests, are strangely similar to “my” interests.
If you look at my info and interests in my facebook site you will see. Very odd indeed. You may find me on facebook as “Dxxxxx Sxxxxxxxxx”.
[Name blanked out because I, Henry Bauer, respect other people’ right to privacy]
Dxxxxxx Bauer Sxxxxxxxxx
Of course I was intrigued enough to go to DBS’s Facebook page — except I couldn’t without signing in or joining Facebook….
So I sent D—BauerS— a personal e-mail:
Date: Wed, 16 Nov 2011 10:11:21 -0500
I’m really intrigued.
But when I try to access your Facebook site, I’m told I have to join Facebook to look at it. Perhaps you could attach to an e-mail to me a snapshot of your page? Or copy the info in some other way?
Since several months have passed without my hearing again from DBS, who had been so “extremely interested” in the similarities of our interests, I bow even further to my paranoid tendencies and conclude that this is simply yet another tactic Facebook geniuses have designed to keep on their books people who once had an account, to boost the numbers that they can claim as active members.