Facebook users get the (mass) message

11 Jan 2008

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zucherberg may be risking further criticism as the popular social networking site adds some new updates, including the ability to mass message, which means the upper limit of 1,000 recipients for a message will be eradicated.

What this effectively means is the holder of a Facebook account can mass message as many other users as they wish, an open door for companies to spam users with their product or service.

The first round of criticism came in November 2007 when users objected to privacy issues surrounding Facebook’s new marketing tool, Beacon, which alerted individuals each time their friend bought an item or service from a partner site.

Due to the fact that this service was opt-out rather than opt-in and not very visible, many users didn’t see it and inadvertently gave Facebook permission to publish details of their online shopping to all their friends.

Zucherberg later admitted on the official Facebook blog that this was an issue: “The problem with our initial approach of making it an opt-out system instead of opt-in was that if someone forgot to decline to share something, Beacon still went ahead and shared it with their friends.”

While apologising for the invasiveness of Beacon: “We simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologise for it,” Zucherberg has no intention of getting rid of the marketing tool but plans on making improvements to it.

His first interview since the Beacon privacy debacle will be broadcast on 13 January in the US, discussing not just Beacon but whether the networking site has been concentrating heavily on commercialism over the past while.

Privacy is not the only issue in question. Last week prominent blogger Robert Scoble asked, on his personal blog, whether sites such as Facebook own your name, address, birthday and other information you enter into your profile page.

Scoble ran a script to ‘suck’ information from his friends’ pages and subsequently found his profile disabled for doing so, leading him to wonder who exactly owns the data in the first place.

This writer is heading off to read the small print in Facebook’s Terms of Use.

By Marie Boran