BEWARE the Facebook Comment Plug-in!

If you haven't heard the news, Facebook has made changes to its comment plug-in. Whether or not you have anything to do with managing an official Facebook page, if you have a Facebook profile and comment on blogs you need to study up.
I read about the changes yesterday in a post on Mashable, watched this video interview with a Facebook VP, and read a post on Facebook expert Mari Smith's site.
They all love it. I don't.
If you have tabs open where you logged into any site using Facebook for their comments, go log out and log back the old-fashioned way--using an email address. Then come back. (Although you don't need to worry here because I haven't installed the code I'm talking about.)
Here's why I think you need to do that. What I understand the changes to mean is that the following sequence can occur:
1) You are on an external site that is using the new FB comments plug-in. (If the site has not upgraded its code, you don't have to worry about steps 3-5.)
2) You opt to give that site access to your FB account, which you will be prompted to do. If you allow that link to be established, and then....
3) You comment on that external site.
4) Your comment made "out there" (via the FB comment plug-in) shows up on your FB profile. 
As an aside, for me this sounds spammy for my FB friends. I make lots of comments on blog posts having to do with social media, health care, higher ed and other work-related things that I would never bother to share on FB, which is far more personal for me.
5) This is the step that worries me--what I heard their VP say on the video was that then, if your friend on Facebook comments on your comment that has just appeared in your newsfeed, that person's comment gets pushed back out to the comment section on that external website! 
Your friend did NOT go to the site and create the link between comments made in FB and the outside world. You did.
Mari Smith shows a screen capture which seems to suggest that they have to give permission for this external posting step but it isn’t spoken to directly.
Not everyone will necessarily understand the significance, and from the screen shot I can't tell whether people have the option to keep their discussion solely inside Facebook and still be able to comment on my comment where they want to comment—inside Facebook.
There is no way I'm using the FB comment plug-in if by doing so I expose the private comments of my friends to the world without their explicit and fully informed permission. I have friends on Facebook who don't necessarily keep up with every nuance of these issues and who count on me to keep them informed about changes so I know this may create problems for them.
If Facebook would let me choose which element(s) of my publicly available profile to show on external blog comments I would have no problem with it whatsoever. 
But forcing me to change behavior inside Facebook so they can do something outside Facebook is just yet another example of Facebook reducing user privacy and then making us clean up after their changes. Notice that none of these ever give us advance warning and leave the setting at opt-out until we opt in actively?
Second reason: Linking employer to personal opinions--are you KIDDING me?
From the Mashable post, described as a “feature”:
Social Commenting & Context: When users are logged into Facebook, they are able to comment on a site with the Comments plugin immediately. Users are able to get more context about a person by looking at the text next to a commenter’s name, which displays any mutual friends, the person’s work title, the person’s age, or the place that a person currently lives – information pulled from the user’s Facebook profile. The information, of course, will be based on a user’s privacy settings.”
I don’t know about you, but I do (or I should say, "I did") list my employer on Facebook page—because my friends see it and because I make it quite clear, via the bio there, that opinions expressed on Facebook are my own and having nothing to do with my employer. I provide context that is lacking on external blog comments.
But this change means my employer is now going to show up affiliated with my comments all over the Web if I use the FB comment plug-in?!
Worse and worse! I am a public employee and have private political opinions I may choose to express on blogs.
 I do so knowing full well that someone who wants to can spend a little Google time and figure out where I work, but I have not commented in a way that deliberately ties my personal opinion to my place of employment.
 If Facebook makes that connection that for me--and they do; I tested it--they just created a huge problem for every government employee and for plenty of people in the private sector who don't want their employer's site listed right next to their personal opinions. 
If you want to see what it looks like, go to that Mashable post and scroll through the comments. You will see one from me with my employer listed next to my name, and a second from me without the employer name because I have now changed my FB account settings to make that information completely private. 
It looks to me as if I am speaking on behalf of my employer when their name appears next to mine.
Further unknowns: Do the Facebook profile details that get pulled in alongside your comment become part of Google results? Do you really want whoever is looking at Google search results for your company name to see every opinion you've expressed online in a private capacity?
The value of Facebook for me is expressly that I choose who sees my words. If they take that away they just lost the walled garden effect that provided the original appeal.
If I want everyone to read what I say, I'll just post it on a site the way I'm doing here.
If you’re following this development, do you have an explanation to reassure me? Or should I just follow my instinct and avoid the FB logo anywhere close to something on which I’d otherwise like to comment? If this plug-in spreads I may just have to quit commenting on blogs completely.
And yes--I'm going to post a link to this post on my Facebook profile.

1 comment :

  1. Heh, just killed my FB account today. It is to complicated when it comes to privacy.


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