Monday, January 9, 2012

Facebook: The Evil Empire (Part 2)

In April 2010, I wrote an editorial titled “Is Facebook the New “Evil Empire”? Answer: Yes” which focused on Facebook’s game playing with privacy policies and controls. My most recent nightmare experience with Facebook deals with Facebook being too quick on the trigger for locking my account and their awful customer service.

Last week, I went to my Facebook page that I use for my collective web sites and got a pop up message saying that my account was “unavailable”. I could not log into my account but I – as well as others – could access my individual page to view it (but not post or make changes to it). The pop up message also said it was sending a code to my phone number (which was already on file from a previous verification process) so I could unlock my account. The code never came. Never.  The same message gave me the option to request the code being resent, and when I did so, I got a message saying I was asking for too many codes!

After trying a few times to log in over the following few hours, I tried navigating Facebook’s help system to get an answer. Not finding an answer that addressed my specific issue, I used the option Facebook gave to send them an email to request help. I received an email within minutes – likely automated - that explained that I had to send in a scan of a government issued ID (like a driver’s license) to verify my identity. (It apparently didn’t matter that I already gave them my cell phone number under my own name months ago when they first requested it but I suppose they still didn’t think I was real.) I had my driver’s license already scanned so I was able to quickly attach it to the email and return the information to them within a few minutes.

Their response was less than immediate. I had to follow up 24 hours later pleading for a response. Meanwhile, I get the automated emails from Facebook saying “Here's some activity you may have missed on Facebook” and asking that I go to Facebook. I would have loved logging in to my page, but sadly I was still locked out. After another 24 hours, I finally get an answer from Facebook, saying that they changed my Facebook name from my web site address to my real name. Now really, why didn’t they simply ask me to do that first, rather than locking me out of my account and then making me jump through hoops? The page I had been using had been established for YEARS and frankly I have no idea why, after all that time, they could not have sent me an email in advance asking me to correct my name and/or giving me the chance to confirm my identify BEFORE they locked me out of account.

This experience is another reason why I only post links to my web sites – and not any actual content – on my Facebook page. With a Facebook lockout, users can lose all access to their own content. This is another reason why I will never store anything of any real significance in “The Cloud.”  If any service that you use, such as Facebook or photo web sites like Flickr or Photobucket or Picasa, decides that you have somehow violated their lengthy and often complicated terms of service, you too can be shut out from all access to your personal content. While I do use blogger for all my web sites, I have all my content backed up so I could literally take it anywhere if the need arises. I should state that I am extremely careful with ANY service that I use not to violate their rules. And this is why Facebook’s behavior – assuming that I was somehow being dishonest and then locking me out of my account before simply asking me to clarify the situation – is what continues to make Facebook “The Evil Empire” in my eyes.

(A side note – of you are posting personal photos and videos on your Facebook page, just remember that Facebook is making money off YOUR content and you get no share of that huge revenue. Consider setting up an account with Google’s (the blog web sites are FREE) and also set up an account with Google’s AdSense which places ads on your blog web site. This allows YOU to make money off your own content. You won’t be able to retire on it anytime soon (unless you get a high volume of traffic) but at least it gives you a share of the bundles of money the web hosts are making on your content!)

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