To ban or not to ban Facebook

No, this is not about the offensive page for which Pakistani courts have banned facebook. I could not have possibly done a better job than Adil Najam so I will not be talking about it in this post. You can read his post here. All I have to say on the topic is that it would have been much simpler if FB deleted that page because the page was full of hate comments, something which is anyway against the FB terms (see Terms, under Safety, no 7). The page is hateful and is attacking a group of people by hurting emotions and offending religious, social and cultural values of 1.3 billion people worldwide. Its not only about Pakistan (4.5  million users), many other muslims all around the world have already deleted their accounts. And if you think FB doesnt care about Pakistan, then you are wrong, they do not want to lose their ardent fans anywhere in the world.

I, instead, will talk about something else.

My husband is not a facebook user. He does have an account but it has no friends added so u can imagine how enthusiastic he is about social networking sites. In fact, he had even forgotten he had an FB account till he got an email from FB suggesting him a few friends. That freaked him out as he was not sure how those people were being suggested to him whom he had emailed once or twice from his gmail account that he had used to open his FB account. He came back home and told me about it. Now I wasnt sure but as I had seen some similar suggestions on my own FB account, I told him that most probably FB links with the email account we use for our FB account and gets information from there. All this time I didnt realize that this is a serious case of privacy intrusion.My husband asked me if gmail allows data sharing and frankly speaking, I wasnt sure as I had never read their privacy policy. You know, we just ‘accept’ all the terms and conditions. Here’s what Gmail’s privacy policy says:

Google may make available third party applications through its services. The information collected by Google when you enable a gadget or other application is processed under this Privacy Policy. Information collected by the application or gadget provider is governed by their privacy policies. […] This Privacy Policy applies to Google services only. We do not exercise control over the sites displayed as search results, sites that include Google applications, products or services, or links from within our various services. These other sites may place their own cookies or other files on your computer, collect data or solicit personal information from you.

I emailed Google to clarify this, as yet, I havent received a reply. I will post their response here as soon as I get one. One this is for sure, Google doesnt seem to be the bigger evil here cuz a little discussion with a few people made me deduce that people using other email service providers are getting ‘crazy’ friend suggestions as well. This meant I needed to check what Facebook is up to.

The following is an email that I sent my husband, I thought its worth sharing. Spread the word:

I think facebook is upto something really creepy.
This first artcle has nothing against FB, instead it talks about another site: Tagged but I think this is what FB might be doing as well. After all FB usually remains silent about its privacy and sharing policies. Read the article here.
Here’s another article which is targeted at FB only.
One more article (all theories as FB has stayed tight lipped on this issue).
Now, obviously, its not Google’s or Hotmail’s or Yahoo’s mistake if FB is peeking into people’s user accounts and saving information which it has no right over.

I just did a little check myself because I have never imported my Gmail contact list into my FB profile and yet I get friend suggestions of people who I am sure dont have me on the contact lists (they dont use Gmail and other email service providers do not save contacts automatically, instead ask for approval) as I do not really know them enough that I would be on their lists. So, today I went to the friend suggestion page and interestingly, it didnt even ask me for my password although it says that it will not remember the password. I was doing this while logged on to my Gmail account which means there’s more to it than we usually consider as in FB is getting in to browser cookies too most probably.

Here’s what FB has to say about friends suggestions (I am quoting it directly from the FB site):

What are Suggestions?

Suggestions is a feature that helps you connect with people and Pages you are likely to know, as well as engage with your confirmed friends on Facebook. Facebook calculates Suggestions based on the networks you are a part of, mutual friends, work and education information, contacts imported using the Friend Finder, and many other factors.”

The FB site has no explanation of what “many other factors” means. Might mean contact scraping and might also mean getting in to browser cookies. No way of finding it out.

Finally, another very interesting post, definitely worth reading and worth spreading.