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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

You Can’t Force Me to Chat, Even if You Are Facebook

I've long maintained that privacy is dead - that whatever you choose to share on the web is visible to the entire planet for limitless time so it’s really up to you whether to share it or not.

However, there are other issues inherent within the sphere of privacy. Users should be able to control the parameters of accessibility and visibility. One should always have control of who you are visible to and who you are not or where you are at a given time and who's not privy to that information.

Irregardless of whether you understand how privacy on the web has changed, you still have the right to control it. I take control of what I share, if it should not be on the web, I simply do not share it. If I'm sharing where I am, it's my decision, so I have control of that as well. What Facebook has done by enabling users’ online visibility through chat without any notice is downright wicked.

It all started after I downloaded Facebook’s new messenger app to my iPhone. At first, I was kind of happy with it because it sent me notifications each time a person sent me a message. The experience was great and it made sure I did not miss any important messages, but quickly I came to understand that the messaging platform on the iPhone, was not just tied into Facebook's messaging system on the web, but that it was also connected to their chat. This threw me for a loop, and was very confusing since while I saw myself offline, other people saw me online (which is rare for me - I rarely use Facebook chat of my own volition).

I couldn't find any way to customize the app on the iPhone nor could I find any other settings on the Facebook site itself and any information that I tried to find in Facebook’s help center was of little help. I began to receive lots of chat messages from people on my “friend’s” list who I am vaguely familiar with (my blog’s readers or people I barely know in real life). I have no problem connecting with them however, I’d like it to be of my own volition and choosing - at my own convenience. I, therefore, had to delete the app from my iPhone, in hopes this would solve the issue of me being visible to the world as constantly online, even when I wasn’t or didn’t want to be. I recognize that the lines between being online and offline, have blurred. Through the use of our smartphones and mobile devices, we are rarely unplugged but I still believe we have the right to have a say in who has access to us and when.

Of course, deleting the app did not resolve the issue.

Luckily, someone suggested that I change my password and that seemed to finally work. As a result of this whole issue, I don't get any Facebook messaging notifications sent to my email anymore. Now, I only see them when I am on Facebook and check them manually.

I truly think this is the single worst Facebook experience I have ever had.

Nevermind, asking why Facebook thinks they have the right to do this, I want to know - why they think I’d want to chat with any of my thousands of friends as opposed to sending a message via email. How is it this becomes their choice? The worst web services are often the ones who treat their users like a herd that has to be forced into a certain behavior often with no alternative choice. I feel as if Facebook is trying to force a new kind of behavior on us, regardless of consequences. Usually, I'd welcome new ideas and innovations, but this one is so outright inconsiderate and demanding - it’s problematic. Moreover, average users might not understand or catch on to what the hell is happening in their message box, which raises ethical questions about participation and consent. The worst part is - that since it’s Facebook even if you want to complain and your complaint is valid, well, you can’t.

This may be asking too much but I want Facebook to care, I want them to give a damn about my privacy, my safety, my right to choice. I want Facebook to recognize us for being loyal users for close to half a decade and give us more options. I want them to provide us with more information about the new messaging feature, and finally, allow users have a choice of how they wish to interact though Facebook. I had avoided this new messaging feature (on the web) for a long time until I was unknowingly forced into submission. What a poor experience it has been since then: all messages from one person are gathered into one long thread (who needs that), duplicate messages while posting (probably a prevailing bug), and a chat interface in messages that is more suitable to chatting in real-time..

Well, Facebook you’ve got us cornered. All my family and friends are there, I can't leave now. I just need to live with it.

Update: Facebook has just released some additional privacy settings for sharing content but none for their chat or message system. What a shame!



posted by Orli Yakuel at 6:56 PM 3 comments

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