Sep. 26, 2012 at 2:21 PM ET
Earlier this week, the Internet had a mini meltdown over false reports that Facebook may’ve posted users' old private messages.
Though it was swiftly deemed untrue, even the French government demanded answers on this non-scandal. All of that overshadowed the real news, a creepy misstep of which the world’s largest social network really is guilty: asking Facebook users to identify friends who may be using fake names on the site.
“Help Us Make Facebook Better,” read a survey prompt that kicked up a comparatively minor amount of ire when it made the rounds on Twitter. “Is this your friend’s real name?” the survey went on, showing a photo of one of the recipient’s Facebook friends and multiple choice answers, “Yes,” “No,” “I don’t know this person,” and “I don’t want to answer.”
“Your response is anonymous and won’t affect your friend’s account,” Facebook assured on the poll question, which Facebook representive Fred Wolens reiterated to NBCNews.com.
Though Facebook does have a real name policy, Wolens said this particular poll was one of many anonymous surveys Facebook uses to tweak its algorithms. He provided the following company statement:
This was a limited survey we have already concluded. We are always looking to gauge how people use Facebook and represent themselves to better design our product and systems. We analysed these surveys only using aggregate data and responses had zero impact on any user's account.
According to Wolens, the survey was received by a small amount of users. Exactly how small, he wouldn’t say. News of it spread when Twitter user @chapeaudefee tweeted a screenshot and the comment, “Facebook wants to know if your friends’ names are real. Are you going to be the snitch?”
Outraged? Probably. You know how you love to be outraged at Facebook. Shocked? Not so much.
The Internet is currently so unperturbed by this latest turn, YouTube has yet to produce a single “Hitler reacts to Facebook asking you to snitch on your friends” video — though a long history of totalitarian regimes asking its citizens to turn on their neighbors is not lost on those who are offended by the poll, despite its reassurances.
“The whole idea of snitching is highly dodgy,” writes privacy blogger Paul Bernal. “It’s creepy — and it helps build at atmosphere of distrust, breaking down the very things that make social networks good,” he continues. “The social relationships that are the heart of Facebook are meant to do ‘good’ things — not be a route by which bad things are spread.”
-- via Sophos