Tag Archives: facebook abuses users’ trust

Hey Facebook

Did you folks really just ask for The Curmudgeon’s phone number, ostensibly to make his page more secure, just days after we all learned that you folks absolutely, positively cannot be trusted with our data?

Why not just ask for our bank account and credit card numbers while you’re at it?

Facebook Is Not Your Friend

We already know that Facebook doesn’t really believe you have any right to privacy.

And most of us suspect, and more or less accept, that Facebook isn’t really protecting our data as it says it’s doing and is using it in ways we wouldn’t like, and of which we’d never approve if we knew about them, to make money.  We won’t be surprised when someone – certainly not the business press, which we’ve learned the hard way exists primarily to sing business’s praises, not to write critically about it, but someone – uncovers Facebook’s abuses.

But now we’ve learned that Facebook is treating us like laboratory rats.

A study on the subject of “emotional contagion” – the idea that the emotional state of people can become contagious among those around them – published last month in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that, as reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer,

… the feeds of 689,003 Facebook users – about 0.053 percent of its 1.3 billion users – were altered for one week in January 2012. The subjects never knew. They just got shown different things, and differences in their behavior, if any, were measured.

Some were shown feeds that used happier language. Some were shown mood-neutral stuff. But about 155,000 were in the “less happy” set, with less happy words.

To measure impact, the study tracked what those 689,003 people did next. Did they now use more happy/neutral/sad language? Did the tweaks affect their moods?

The study says yes: It found “massive contagion.”

Of course, after its duplicity was revealed, Facebook apologized, as it always does, for abusing its users – apologizes but then fails to mend its ways.  Facebook even trotted out celebrity executive Sheryl Sandberg to field some of the flak.  Sandberg took a brief detour from her victory tour as a successful female executive who no longer needs to work for a living (after urging women to be more like her).  In true Facebook fashion, Sandberg offered a classic non-apology apology, as reported by the Huffington Post:

“This was part of ongoing research companies do to test different products, and that was what it was; it was poorly communicated,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said during an appearance in New Delhi.

“And for that communication we apologize. We never meant to upset you.”

In other words:  we’re sorry we got caught but offer no apology for what we did.

Sandberg then went on Indian television and elaborated (again, as reported by Huffington Post):

“This was one week and it was a small experiment,” she said. “It has been communicated as an experience to shift emotions, it’s not exactly what it was. It was an experiment in showing people different things to see — to see how it worked. Again, what really matters here is that we take people’s privacy incredibly seriously and we will continue to do that.”

That explanation is actually defiant:  we didn’t do anything wrong but we’re going to keep saying we take people’s privacy “incredibly seriously” in the hope that if we say it often enough, you idiots will start to believe us.

People need to be honest with themselves:  we (not The Curmudgeon, of course) may find Facebook to be fun, but the people who run Facebook do not like you, do not respect you, and are only looking for ways to make money from you.  Anything you share with them they are going to attempt to turn around and make a buck on, and if they keep getting caught mistreating your information then they will keep on apologizing for it but do nothing to mend their ways.  Those apologies aren’t sincere and the people doing the apologizing don’t really mean it.  They only mean they were sorry they got caught.

And they will do it again.  You can bet on it.  Because in the end, that “thumbs up” symbol for which Facebook has become known is really depicting the wrong finger when it comes to the company’s attitude toward its users.