Tuesday, December 15, 2009; 4:13 PM
Here's a new one. As Facebook continues to grapple with the negative press over its privacy overhaul, it's now suggesting a new way to protect your personal information: lie about it. At least, that's what Barry Schnitt, Facebook's Director of Corporate Communications and Public Policy, told the Wall Street Journal in an article this evening. From the story:
Facebook also made public formerly private info such as profile pictures, gender, current city and the friends list. (Mr. Schnitt suggests that users are free to lie about their hometown or take down their profile picture to protect their privacy; in response to users' complaints, the friends list can now be restricted to be viewed only by friends).
Of course, this directly violates Facebook's own Terms of Service, which stipulate that users may not provide false information.
Registration and Account Security Facebook users provide their real names and information, and we need your help to keep it that way. Here are some commitments you make to us relating to registering and maintaining the security of your account:You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.
Update: I reached out to Facebook, and Schnitt has clarified his position:
I think WSJ is paraphrasing. What I said is profile picture and current city are optional. You don?t have to include a profile picture or you can include a picture of your dog or anything you like. Similarly, you don?t have to indicate your current city or you can indicate that your current city is ?Atlantis?, ?Valhalla? or, again, anything you like. We hope people will use accurate information if they are comfortable doing so because that information helps them to be found by their friends, which is part of the point of joining the site.
Facebook has always been heavily reliant on its users being honest, and it has thrived because of it. It was among the first social networks to mandate the use of real names rather than aliases, which has made it easier to find friends and also forces users to take more responsibility for their actions. If Facebook is actually going to start suggesting falsifying or removing information as a means to maintain privacy, then it's making a serious mistake.
I've made no secret of my dislike for Facebook's privacy overhaul. And while there have been plenty of articles questioning Facebook's motivations, I think we've yet to really see the true backlash begin. This is just the tip of the iceberg.