facebook community pages might need some rewording

By now, I'm sure you are all aware of the storm of criticism and concern about privacy that has come about in response to the badly thought out addition of Community Pages at Facebook.

Like many others, I've deleted a lot of information from my profile. I did not want to link my profile to these pages that are accessible to anyone on facebook, and in some cases anyone on the internet. After my initial freakout, I have calmed down a bit. It seems that by limiting my participation in facebook as a whole, I can keep a certain level of privacy.

One friend told me a story of a musician friend of hers who has been impacted by this new feature in a rather negative way. Her fan page is now overshadowed by the community page that has her name. Where she once had a place for her fans that she could moderate, most people now end up at the fully un-moderated aggregation of posts that mention her that is the facebook community page. They have essentially replaced a well defined relatively safe space with a free for all with content that would never have been allowed on her fan page.

Another problem is the text on the top of every community page. It assumes and implies that anyone who's liked the page or had their status update automatically posted to it have "a passion" for the topic.

Imagine my shock when I saw an anarchist activist friend's recent status update on the FBI community page. Now, he might have a passion for the FBI, but hardly in the way implied by facebook.

Prompted by the wave of criticism, the New York Times gave readers the chance to submit questions that would be asked to a Facebook executive. The responses from Elliot Schrage, vice president for public policy at Facebook show a clear disrespect for the people who's participation in facebook gives it the value that drives the business side of facebook. I have to wonder if Mr. Schrage understands that his paycheck is the result of the combined crowdsourced labor of people using Facebook.

The most telling answer came when a reader asked:

Why not simply set everything up for opt-in rather than opt-out? Facebook seems to assume that users generally want all the details of their private lives made public.

Mr. Schrage replied:

Everything is opt-in on Facebook. Participating in the service is a choice. We want people to continue to choose Facebook every day. Adding information — uploading photos or posting status updates or “like” a Page — are also all opt-in. Please don’t share if you’re not comfortable. That said, we certainly will continue to work to improve the ease and access of controls to make more people more comfortable. Your assumption about our assumption is simply incorrect. We don’t believe that. We’re happy to make the record on that clear.

So, by opting into facebook by creating an account, you have opted into any and all future changes to privacy settings. This is an amazing interpretation of the concept of opt-out that the question was trying to bring up. Thank you for putting that on the record.

In order to illustrate how badly thought out their new methods are, I went looking for examples where it would be clear that people who's posts were being added to a page might have reservations about being listed as "having a passion" for a certain topic. Here are the winners for now:

Now, I have a passion for abortion rights, but I don't think anyone has a passion for abortion:

Notice that the abortion page is the only one of this set that has an image. A small subset of these community pages have a tab with the associated wikipedia entry. Those pages use the primary image used on the wikipedia page. If I did not want to be banned from editing wikipedia pages, I'd start changing those images to rather inappropriate things and see how fast the new images are picked up on facebook. (well, now that I'm thinking about it, I'm not sure if that's really an appropriate image for the wikipedia entry about abortion, but I'll save the rest of this for another post)

Someone please tell Facebook we already have an Internet

I have a whole set of critiques of facebook's privacy policy/changes, but one of the things I immediately noticed about the whole "community page" phenomenon is how very wrong they are doing it. Any mention of genital warts or the FBI translates to "passion" for same? Is that really how Facebook's engineers think the world works?

They've also slurped up a huge amount of Wikipedia content, and while the "edit" links all point back to the original, they don't seem to have worked out Wikipedia's system of redirects. On the real deal, Baratunde redirects to Baratunde Thurston. On Facebook's version of the internet, those are two different pages:
* http://www.facebook.com/pages/Baratunde/101876586521217
* http://www.facebook.com/pages/Baratunde-Thurston/105631819470600

Or, as he put it, "Someone please tell Facebook we already have an Internet" (http://www.baratunde.com/blog/2010/5/13/i-was-about-to-delete-my-faceboo...)

The abortion image comes from the wiki page of the same name, and it fascinates me. It led me to another image which is at once gross, and still mesmerizing. I've never given much thought to what is cropped from your average fetus photo. I'm so used to seeing floating sacks. It actually never properly occurred to me that we actually don't spend our first weeks floating in a slick balloon, but rather in ... what is that? a beat up old tennis ball? Seriously: it had never occurred to me that the amniotic sac is so ... intense. Anyway. That's my tangent for the day.

if you have a passion for telling facebook...

That's a great quote from Baratunde, thanks for posting it. On the whole fetus/placenta thing, my illusions of placenta as slick balloon were crushed when Vikki at abc no rio brought Siu Loong's placenta to the silk screen room to make placenta prints. Biology is just so icky

I recently decided to

I recently decided to de-facebook myself, and I've been planning a rant giving reasons why. Now I have more material to use -- thanks.