Friday, February 11, 2011

Facebook Security? Try Facebook Censorship!

Edit 2: Found this article discussing the new option (which was built to reduce the size of the news feed -- i.e., as a filter), key word being new. Apparently, the default is set to "all" for some and "interact with most" for others. Interesting, and confusing.

Edit: A reader brought up the idea that this may not be a very new "feature" at all. As I recall, I do remember something a while back that required changing an option regarding something along the lines of "news feed" or friend's posts or whatever, but I do not remember the "friends or pages [I] interact with most" option. If I did, I would have raised this issue back then. Whether the "option" and default setting is new or not, this remains an entirely baffling concept to me, from a service that was built to encourage social interaction via the internet. Thus, my post remains unchanged below...


Earlier today, I discovered that the initially-scorned then universally-adorned Facebook news feed had changed in a rather profound way. I'm not sure how long it has been altered, but in hindsight, I would say I've noticed the effects for at least a week or so. In short, the news feed had been changed to include only those "friends" or "pages" with which you "interact with most". Which is interesting, because I've had virtually no contact with any pages I follow, and several of the friends I seemed to still be able to follow I have not interacted with on Facebook for months.

I suspect, actually, that the option is far more random than it sounds. It seems to me this is a technique that exists for no other purpose than censor particularly people from your feed. The motivation for this censorship could stem from a number of factors: data constraints, reader complaints, skullduggerous friends "you may not know", etc. Good intentions could very well be behind this otherwise bizarre change. What if the option actually was intended to prevent stalkers from stalking (one presumes, although this may or may not be true, that those excluded from a news feed on your friend list make you excluded from theirs), reduce very possible data size issues on Facebook (...maybe...), etc.

However, I think the move was far more malicious than this. The fact that the option seemed to work VERY badly, at least based on its definition: "friends and pages [I] interact with most". From what I can see, this is a total joke. And wouldn't this option basically just ensure that the friends I could see would remain the friends I interacted with most? What would happen to the remaining friends I interacted with least?

Instead, I see this as a change without the customer in mind. After all, why would the default be this, versus following everyone, based on a programmer's definition of what friends or pages I interact with most? And although the customer is provided this service (at least monetarily) for free -- the fact that such an option could be installed as a default with very little notice (I noticed it only after being notified by another user -- not from the service itself) is more disconcerting to me than the "we'll show your page and contents to unknown third parties" complaints I hear endlessly from Facebook users.

I wonder if this was also done as some sort of reaction to the security complaints. Which begs the question ... if so, why would Facebook censor a user's content from selected "friends" of that user? That wasn't what the complaints were about...

The motivation(s) is (are) unclear, and I am just speculating here, but the bottom line is that a service that intends to bring people together online (social network) just installed a function that intentionally prevents those people from interacting. How is that at all a service to the customer?

Security issues are one thing I can get behind, except that the safest way to be secure is to only share the information you want to in a (relatively) public forum. But censorship is another issue for me entirely. If Facebook continues to use such tactics on its predominantly ignorant customers, then it is doing a disservice to those customers. At that point, why use it? There are other social networks (or alternative means entirely) that (at least for now) won't prevent me from seeing what the others want to share and want me to see...

To be continued, Facebook.