Facebook wants you, and they want the real you. Close examination of corporate communications (samples below) show how important your real identity is to Facebook’s future plans. Call it “authenticity enforcement.” We call it insane.
As reported here and here recently, Facebook accidentally deactivated many thousands of users’ accounts (yes, accounts meaning personal collections of photos, friends, comments and messages), and then sent instructions explaining their requirements to restore deactivated accounts:
“Please upload a government-issued ID to this report and make sure that your full name, date of birth, and photo are clear. You should also black out any personal information that is not needed to verify your identity (e.g., social security number). If you do not have access to a scanner, a digital image of your photo ID will be accepted as well. Rest assured that we will permanently delete your ID from our servers once we have used it to verify the authenticity of your account.”
This coming from a company you notoriously a) can’t easily delete anything from and b) cannot get customer service from over the phone – just in case one had any concerns about sending the 25-year-old who works there your official government identification.
Facebook is constantly tweaking its communications, revealing in piecemeal their real agenda. Here’s a message from a few years back sent to someone “over-friending”:
Thanks for your understanding,”
- Facebook User Operations
What if Google decided to do this for search?
“To use Google Search, you’ll need to sign in under your one true identity. If this is in direct contrast to what you expected from an internet search engine, we apologize for any confusion. This is simply the intention behind our service. You can no longer search with Google. This decision is final.”
To see how seriously Facebook takes the position they should own your real identity, lets peek at the legal situation by examining a few changes Facebook has been busy making in its Terms of Service, starting with good old Section 4 titled, “Registration and Account Security”:
“You will not create more than one personal profile. If we disable your account, you will not create another one without our permission.”
Of course, many people have more than one account, whether to more easily or privately communicate with different groups of friends, to play games with, or to escape an ex harassing them, or for other privacy reasons. Facebook doesn’t want this going on. It craves that single user identity, validated by government ID, and the proven real-world (not internet) relationships that come along with it. And of course, once Facebook has your super-verified info, it wants to share it. All of it:
4. Information You Share With Third Parties
“When you connect with an application or website it will have access to General Information about you. The term General Information includes your and your friends’ names, profile pictures, gender, connections, and any content shared using the Everyone privacy setting. We may also make information about the location of your computer or access device and your age available to applications and websites”
Perhaps 80%-90% of people do not change their (complex and constantly changing) privacy settings, hence the legal term “General Information” in practice means: “we own all of your and your friends content on Facebook and have the right to exchange it with anyone behind your back.” There’s more action in the Terms of Service (see Facebooks own redline version here), but to sum it up, these recent changes combined with the user communications we’ve just reviewed, clearly illustrate how the iron fist of Facebook is clamping down to ensure the merger of your real and online identity.
So lets recap: A fun, free, social site benefiting from the time and attention we collectively spend on it to the tune of billions in advertising profits (already) is enforcing the authenticity of users accounts to increasingly be backed by well-scanned clear government issued ID’s from which they’ll later remove the additional info? Yes. For Facebook, it’s better they get user data truly cleaned up and make it all government-official so they can more effectively sell everything about our (real) lives to anyone who can help drive up the price for the 2012 IPO.
If this feels to you like a new version of the credit bureaus who were somehow granted the power to aggregate, resell, and rate our entire financial lives, you’re not alone. Only this time, it’s not just loans or whether you missed a payment 4 years ago. Now, the currency will be verified data behind every aspect of your “validated real” life:
- Want to apply to a school? They’ll pay a fee to check far more than your test scores, they’ll run your social score, friends scores, negative behavior keywords and benchmarks, who knows.
- Want a new financial account? How about a score based on how connected you or your family are you to affluent friends?
- How about some health insurance? Check out why the Wall Street Journal found insurance companies are looking into using your social networking data.
- Getting married? Maybe your spouses family will pay the fee to run your relationship index benchmarks.
- New job? Your future employer could choose to evaluate you from a huge set of indices – social, psychological, relationships, and more – of course all this information would be “safely aggregated” but employers could trust it. After all, it’s real and based on reams of real data:
- How present and active are you online?
- What do you and your friends purchase or like?
- Are your friends married, single, divorced, promiscuous?
- Where do you go online when not on Facebook and what do you do there (that old “like” button)?
It makes what Google knows about you start to look pretty benign.
In fact: send us in your favorite possible ways Facebook might use or abuse your authentic verified user profile information in the future. The best examples will get entered into our IPAD drawing. Any format is fine to: cont...@getabine.com
Facebook wants to be a dominant company for the next generation, wielding power even beyond that of those great data companies of the 20th century; Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion (who we all know and love so much for putting the consumer first).
Step 1 appears complete: they’re already amassing the data we give them. Now, Step 2: they need to make that data as clean and authentic as possible. Step 3: go public and grow profits for shareholders by selling that data.
Bottom line: Facebook is not its own country. Visiting should not require your drivers license or passport or any verified ID whatsoever. Logging in should not be like going through TSA security. And although Facebook is not yet charging for your extra baggage… they probably know if you have any.
Abine’s Privacy Suite and DeleteMe services help you stay private when you surf online, stay private when you enter your personal info into forms, and reclaim your privacy if you have info or accounts online you’d like removed. Many of these services are free or reasonably priced, and come directly from us at Abine, The Online Privacy Company.