Facebook – broadcasting your secrets to the world

I’ve never been particularly keen on the social media, for three main reasons. One is that I’ve never found them very interesting – so many posts and tweets are idle chat (or even random burble) rather than genuine news. The second, related, reason is that I’m not so arrogant as to think that all my friends and acquaintances are really that interested in my every move, so I see no reason why I should tell them all that my left nostril is itchy this morning or that my computer keyboard is full of fag ash. The third is that although I’m not a particularly private person, I don’t necessarily want to tell the whole world all my business. I think it should be up to me who I tell about what I’m up to.

So I was quite shocked to read a Wall Street Journal article the other day saying that two gay students had effectively been “outed” to their parents by the unwitting actions of their Facebook friends.

Wall Street Journal: When the Most Personal Secrets Get Outed on Facebook

It seems to me quite bizarre that anyone should be able to add another person to a Facebook group without their consent. But apparently that’s what happened to these two people. Not only that, but because the well-meaning person concerned chose the option of making the group open to public view, all their Facebook friends were informed of the fact that they’d “joined” (not “been added to”, apparently) a gay-oriented group.

Facebook’s reaction struck me as glib, self-serving and wholly inadequate:

“Our hearts go out to these young people,” says Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes. “Their unfortunate experience reminds us that we must continue our work to empower and educate users about our robust privacy controls.”

What nonsense. Someone can add you to a group without your agreement and tell the world about it, and they have the gall to call that robust? About as robust as a house of cards in a Force 10 gale, I’d say.

That story went out in October last year. But although Facebook have rewritten their page explaining the group privacy options, apparently the procedure is still the same seven months later – any friend can add you to a group they’re a member of without your prior consent.


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