Indeed, this isn’t Facebook’s first trespass into the touchy realm of online identity.
Late last year, the company briefly changed the name on the account of award-winning novelist Salman Rushdie to reflect his never-used first name.
According to Washington Post's account, Rushdie explained, blow by blow, on Twitter how Facebook preemptively deactivated his account because it didn’t believe he was who he said he was. After receiving a copy of his passport, the company then said Rushdie would have to use his given first name, Ahmed. Further, Rushdie tweeted: “They have reactivated my FB page as ‘Ahmed Rushdie,’ in spite of the world knowing me as Salman. Morons!” Rushdie has expressed his hope that “ridicule by the Twitterverse will achieve what I can’t.”
Later, Rushdie reported on Twitter that Facebook had “buckled,” adding, “I feel SO much better. An identity crisis at my age is no fun. Thank you, Twitter!” He, then, updated his account to say that he had received an apology from Facebook.
George Haber, however, is no Salman Rushdie – or even Ahmed Haber! He’s still waiting for Facebook’s apology, and not holding his breath. So are many others.
Haber remains shaken by Facebook’s erasure of his Facebook page. He has since posted a second message (which is still there) as follows.
What Facebook has demonstrated to me is that there are some services that people want to be supplied by a single source. There is only one Facebook, the competition is miniscule in comparison. Clearly people want only one social networking hub.
This single 'black hole' effect is common in human behaviour, and has another feature: the 'herd' can spontaneously abandon one fashion for another. which will happen when FB gets just enough people disappointed that they switch to the next big thing. at that point Facebook will be history, and rebranding will not help.
FB's best move is to create a 'NEW FB' and get everyone to switch, offering better, more secure etc etc. Hell they could switch everyone automatically, its only software!
Come to think of it, the competition could switch us all over from FB without asking anyway, by the sound of it!
My brother had an impersonator once too. I think nothing major happened. But I think he now uses another name just to avoid this kind of things. He's a TV artist so that's why he gets some attention, lucky for us who are not so famous and have not much to fear. Nevertheless quite interesting to read that Facebook is capable of playing "Big Brother" and tweak one's profile willingly. Yikes!
I think we all know that any entity that stores a lot of personal information about individuals -- like Facebook does -- is totally capable of play a "Big Brother" role.
The question is how much trust and faith we put in them, assuming that they would "do the right thing."
Clearly, in this case, Facebook failed to live up to our expectations.
You are absolutely right, Frank.
We all understand that there are security risks on a lot of sites. We even understand someone could impersonate us on Facebook.
What separates an excellent company from others is how the company deals with it. Let's hope that the pending IPO would help Facebook act more responsibly and maturely.
Thanks, resistion. When a company with power thinks that they can get away with such a practice as "erasing" what people said about the company on a "social" network site, I think they went too far.
After all, Facebook is "a social network," and if the social network giant can't take the heat on the social playground they have created, there is nothing "social" about Facebook.
If you don't pay for a service and have a service level contract with the provider, then all you are to them is a source of revenue that they can derive from the data you put onto their site. If it is not obvious how a company makes money out of giving a free service then it is because they are selling what you gave them for free. Currently this is through focussed advertising - but is that the limit to what they can do with your data?
Does FB really need you real date of birth, and all of the other data that "prove" who you are in other contexts eg when opening a bank account?
[For that matter do you need to know what everyone you have ever met have eaten for lunch? ;) ]
The removal of the messages is both disturbing and, sadly, not terribly surprising.
I think there's a natural tendency to assume that governments and old-guard corporations can't be trusted, but new Internet companies can. Wealth, power and control are prime motivators for misdeeds in government and old companies. The people in new Internet companies are really no different and are just as likely to succumb to those temptations.
The other thing that is easy to forget is that Facebook and similar companies don't really have anything to stop them from deleting or even altering users' data because it's really not "users'" data. It pretty much belongs to FB and they have a lot of legal leeyway in what they do with it.