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Facebook Faux Pas

22 Aug 2010
Posted by Shannon

What used to be considered a social faux pas is now a Facebook feature.

Last week Facebook added “Places,” which is a variation on the creepy FourSquare social networking site that allows you to announce your presence everywhere in the real world. Merchants give points for mentions, which can be turned into rewards of dubious value.

But Facebook manages to make it creepier, by ensuring that people who have never signed up for such an invasion of privacy are now subjected to it. Unless you opt-out, you can be photographed and tagged by the overzealous idiots on your friends-list and have your whereabouts reported across the grid.

Now, imagine if someone snapped a photo of you at a restaurant with some attractive person who is not-your-mate, displayed it a party of 150 of your friends, and said: “Hey, who were you having dinner with on August 15 at 8:15 p.m. in Le Crocodile?”

Yeah, that’s exactly what FB’s Places is designed to allow.

If some socially-inept doofus did that in the real world we would squirm and change the subject. If he did it often enough, we’d ostracize him.

So why does FB think we’ll enjoy this feature? Actually, they don’t care if we do or not.  We’re their product, not their customer. Facebook is selling us to businesses that want to access the personal data we so blithely volunteer – including where we eat dinner and with whom.

And like the aforementioned Swipely, FB is admitting that the term social media is something of a misnomer. Unless you think socializing means buying things and talking about it. FB and other so-called social media may have begun as collection of acquaintances chattering amongst themselves like excited high schoolers, but the need to monetize the product – as the marketing illiterates like to say – invariably turns all these apps into marketing tools.

Merchants have always used testimonials from satisfied customers and that’s what FourSquare has been trying to capitalize on – with some success. Apparently people love to notify their friends about where they’re shopping and what swell thing they bought, and who they saw there.

To which I say: this is why civilization is doomed.

At least FourSquare requires you to sign up. But in Facebook’s case, they didn’t even ask permission. Again. The default setting leaves you open for tagging. If you want to opt-out you have to redo your privacy settings. Again.

So let me ask, again: Why is anyone who doesn’t have something to sell still using Facebook?