Facebook aggressively advertising dubious features

Yesterday some confusion arised on my side when I saw a new facebook advertising campaign in my facebook account (yes, I am a member of facebook, although I’m aware of the privacy concerns). Basically it was saying that I should try the friends finder and that some of my friends (showing and naming me three of them) would have used it already.

Some background:
The friends finder feature of facebook is a feature that asks for the password of your e-mail account. It will then crawl through your emails to find contacts that might already be on facebook but not connected to you (in a facebook sense).

My first feeling was: Oh my god. How can it be that friends (and family) of mine are so naive? Especially since there were people included which I consider to be quiet clever. But honestly: Who would be so naive to give an unknown company direct unsupervised (you can’t tell what they really do) access to your mail account? Would you give it to your friend? Your husband? Your father? I guess the answer will be „No“ in the most cases and these people are most likely people you trust. Well, I know, you could state similar things for Googlemail who crawl your mails to show you personalized advertising. And in fact you are right. But if one decides to use gmail for your email hosting you have to trust them anyway. Like you have to trust anybody else you retain to host your mails (who could do the same but just don’t tell you). But in this case its a third party, Facebook.

But if you now think that this becomes a rant against my friends: You are wrong. Over the day I found out that it basically shows up all my friends in a rotation. Every time I open the start page it randomly picks three people from my friend list and shows them to me, telling the same lie to me all over again.

So what do we have here? Facebook tries to advertise the most dubious feature they have in the most aggressive way one could imagine. By pretending wrong facts. Wouldn’t that even be an element of crime in Germany („Irreführung“ §5 UWG or maybe also §4 UWG, „unsachliche Beeinflussung“)?

Facebook, you can do better.

Update: Stefano raised a good point. I didn’t actually make clear that it has been verified that those people actually did not use the „feature“:

1. I asked some of them. They said, they didn’t use it and were in fact surprised that I asked.
2. Others told me they saw that ad stating that I used the feature. I definitely did not use this „feature“.
3. Probably weak: IMHO its highly unlikely that all of my friends used that feature and at the point I’ve written this it had already shown my whole friend list.

5 Gedanken zu „Facebook aggressively advertising dubious features“

  1. You think that is Bad.

    I don't even have a facebook account and I get a email every now and then with a list of my friends who are on facebook. And I assume and invite to join – I assume so because the only part of the email in a glyph set (and language) I familiar with is the names of some of my friends.

    I'm guessing these people have used friend finder , and it's treating the email address as a unique identifier.

    So without even having an account or agreeing to their term and conditions they are storing possibly incorrect data amount me.

    I'm sorely tempting to hit them with a disclosure request under the DPA – but since it is English law , I doubt they will respond to it.

  2. Out of curiosity, have you actually checked with them that they haven't used the feature?
    Rest assured, I don't want to defend facebook (on which I don't even have an account, on purpose), but this one seems so grave to me that it's worth an actual verification …

  3. Just noticed, that for non-German readers I should translate "Verbraucherzentrale" and "Bundesbeauftragter für den Datenschutz und die Informationsfreiheit". So here we go:
    Verbraucherzentrale: German Consumer Organisation (and the link pointed to the homepage of the federation of all 42 consumer organisations).
    Bundesbeauftragter für den Datenschutz und die Informationsfreiheit: Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information

    Both might be interested in prosecuting this, in case it's verifiable.

  4. Facebook tries to advertise the most dubious feature they have in the most aggressive way one could imagine.link submitting Every time we open the start page it randomly picks three people from our friend list and shows them to us and telling the same lie to us all over again.

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