Facebook: snitchgate!

A story about Facebook went around twitter last night that provoked quite a reaction in privacy advocates like me: Facebook, it seems, is experimenting with getting people to ‘snitch’ on any of their friends who don’t use their real names. Take a look at this:

Facebook has had a ‘real names’ policy for a while: this is what their ‘Help Center’ says on the subject:

People in my field have known about this for a long time – it’s been the cause of a few ‘high profile’ events such as when Salman Rushdie had his account suspended because they didn’t believe that he was who he said he was – but few people had taken it very seriously for anyone other than the famous. Everyone knows ‘fake’ names and ‘fake’ accounts – my sister’s dog has a Facebook account – so few believed that Facebook was going to bother enforcing it, except for obvious trolls and so forth. Now, however, that appears to be changing.

Initially, I wondered if this was just a fake – the screenshot could easily have been faked – but there seems now to have been confirmation. It has been covered in the TMP Idea Lab (here), where they say that Facebook has confirmed that they are doing it, and the German online magazine Heise Online (here, in German) where they report that it is a ‘limited test’. Given that this kind of a test fits in with the official strategy, it seems likely that it is indeed true.

So what’s wrong?

There are lots of argument against the whole ‘real names’ policy to start with – it was a trigger for the ‘nymwars’. Many people can only really function online with the ability to remain pseudonymous, from bloggers like Nightjack to whistleblowers, from victims of abuse to people living in oppressive regimes. When their pseudonymity is ‘broken’, the result can be catastrophic – when Nightjack’s cover was blown, his blog ceased to exist and a valuable and entertaining source of information was lost. Mexican bloggers have suffered much worse – a number have lost their lives in the most gruesome way when the drugs cartels have been able to find them. The link between the ‘online’ and the ‘offline’ personality is one that can often need to be protected. When the ‘real names’ policy is enforced, protecting that link becomes much, much harder.

This, of course, is Facebook, which is just one service, rather than the net as a whole – but it’s a crucial service, with close to a billion users around the world, pretty close to ubiquitous. And, just as importantly, where Facebook leads, other services can and do follow. If the ‘real names’ policy becomes accepted on Facebook, it may become the norm. For some people, that sounds like a good thing – catching paedophiles and terrorists, making sure children don’t get access to ‘inappropriate material’ and so forth – but the reality is very different. The real ‘bad guys’ will find a way around the system – as so often, it will almost certainly be the innocent that get caught up in the messes.


What’s worse, the whole idea of snitching is highly dodgy. There’s a good reason that ‘telling tales’ is looked down on – and a good reason why it’s generally only been oppressive regimes (both real and fictional) that have encouraged people to report on their neighbours – from the worst of the Roman Emperors such as Tiberius and Caligula to the KGB, the Stasi and so forth. It’s creepy – and it helps build at atmosphere of distrust, breaking down the very things that make social networks good. 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.

Taking it a step further, look at the nature of the questionnaire. You’re being asked to report on a ‘friend’. If you say ‘I don’t want to answer’ that will be recorded – that’s the whole nature of Facebook – and it’s not hard to see that there could be a list of ‘people who don’t want to answer about their friends’. Indeed, under the terms of the Snoopers Charter, it wouldn’t just be Facebook who could access this kind of information: the authorities could potentially set up a filter to gather data on people who don’t confirm the names of their friends. It could be viewed as suspicious if you don’t answer – or even suspicious if you are friends with people who don’t answer. Again, this is the nature of Facebook’s social data – and how it could be misused.

And, as anyone who reads what I write about the Snoopers Charter etc will understand, though this may just be set up to catch paedophiles and terrorists, it can equally be used for all kinds of things. Potential employers who want to see whether their applicants are ‘open and honest’. Insurance companies for the same ‘reason’. Facebook is now in a situation where it needs to generate income – the failure of its IPO has made this even more crucial than before – and will be looking for ways to squeeze out as much revenue from their data as possible.

That, ultimately, is what lies behind this kind of thing: Facebook wants to make money. If it knows exactly who you are, it thinks it can make more money from you – by selling things to you, or by selling your details to others, or by targeting you more accurately in some other way. That’s perfectly understandable – indeed, from a business sense pretty much inevitable – but it does have consequences, particularly when the other uses that their data can be put are understood.

Oppressive regimes understand some of those uses – which is one of the reasons that the erstwhile Tunisian government, prior to the revolution, hacked into the Facebook login page in order to be able to access possible revolutionaries’ accounts. They knew how that information could be used…

What should be done?

Well, the first thing to do is make it clear that you don’t like this kind of a system. The whole idea of snitching should not be something that’s encouraged – indeed, the whole ‘real names’ system should be discouraged, but it seems hard to put that genie back into Facebook’s bottle. Ultimately, I suspect there’s only one answer: many people should simply leave Facebook. Find other ways to do the things you want to do, other ways that don’t require ‘real names’ and don’t use such sneaky and creepy tactics as snitching. Communicate by email, by twitter. Share your photos on other photo sites. Play games directly, not over Facebook. There’s always another way.

287 thoughts on “Facebook: snitchgate!

  1. Take my name as an example. It was bestowed upon me in much the same way as the name in my birth certificate – by others. What does “real name” actually mean. We all know who Tony Blair is but that’s not exactly the name on his certificate. There is a range between commonly used shortforms and nicknames. As I understand it, if a nickname is used more than an original name, that becomes the name; changing it by deed poll is not required for legal recognition in every instance.

    Where does this leave Facebook’s policy? It seems to avoid being excessively legalistic in its jargon, possibly creating further confusion. It definitely makes trouble for the small number of people with just one name.

    Overall, the issue seems to be one of control. The company will deem some names acceptable, some not. The history of the net to date has been characterised by the failure of attempts like this. That said, the net is still young.

    1. Yes indeed – the whole idea of a ‘real name’ is a flawed one. That was one of the things that came up with Salman Rushdie. They blocked his account, assuming it wasn’t the ‘real’ Salman Rushdie, and when he complained they asked him for his passport to prove he was who he said he was. When he sent it, they reinstated his account – but in the name that appeared in his passport, Ahmed Rushdie – which made him even angrier. He created a twitterstorm, and they reversed their policy – but most people couldn’t do that, just the famous!

      1. Dear Paul Bernal there is a man called Stephen Douglas Hill who is saying to get in touch with him to receive money from the Facebook corporate entity. He has approached a man on my facebook who is very concerned about the mans outward aggressive overatures,and blatant not hiding that he is might be caught, My friend offended,and trying to find whom to write is JOE VISCOUNT,Prince Rupert B.C.Canada

  2. Thanks for this exposé – it’s amazing to see what stuff Facebook gets away with on the sly, so I’m grateful to those who have their fingers on the pulse.

    I’ve got a couple of very ‘stalky’ estranged family who’ve been known (it’s still going on) to use family members and their friends lists as a mailing list for their angry, gossipy emails, which is why I use a pseudonym on Facebook. This new issue is something that will probably push me to close my account once and for all, to be honest.

  3. Google also try to pin you down by continually asking for mobile no.s they know 1 phone = 1 person.

    It is all part of big companies attempt to control. 1 person, 1 account. No one is meant to have more, it messes with the data. You are a commodity not a multi facetted individual, do as you are told!

      1. The name policy on Google+ is sketchy. It seems to depend on who reviews the name. I, as well as a few friends have easily appealed without an issue. I know of some, however, that weren’t as lucky.

    1. Facebook has attempted that trick on me many times. I go to login and there is a dialog claiming that there is an error and that they need to have my phone number to verify my account is mine.

      Yea, right.

    2. Does Facebook actually mandate 1 person, 1 account? I thought they removed that from their terms of service at some point. I know several (minor) celebrities, and they all have separate “public” and “personal” FB accounts.

      1. They are most likely using Facebook Pages. A personal account can have many Pages under their administration, but it’s still the same FB login. A page will also have a different URL, different set of people connected to it, and it won’t reveal any info from the private account.

      1. Paul, you have hit the nail on the head, their declining revenue stream and stock price will likely cause them to execute even more extreme behavior. The recent admission that as many 86 million accounts may be fake, others estimate up to 120 million, could drive them as well.

      1. Give Diaspora some time. It’s still in its relative infancy. Once more people are hosting pods, and encouraging others to join them, it has quite remarkable potential for growth.

      2. There are enough people on Diaspora if you connect to on the public stream.
        I’ve been connecting with the same strangers in certain channels so it’s it’s a great place to make new friends. IMO there is really currently nothing wrong with Diaspora. I love the anonymity of it, while still being able to converse with people who have similar interests.

    1. I was enthused when I heard about Diaspora in the early days but realised they had made an architectural mistake when I looked at it. I don’t think any system can really allow for privacy by design unless it is one user per node. Diaspora is not designed to make it easy for users to run their own node so again defaults to privacy by trust. This allows for rogue nodes in the long run. The problem of social media is that I don’t think it can ever be deserving of the name ‘social’ when there are commercial conflicts of interest, which happens to all companies as they scale. They start off serving their users/customers and so grow, but later to pay for scale, they end up having to turn against their users. Only a one-one peer-peer one-computer encrypted system could get around this (hence why skype doesn’t cost so much to run as say facebook – it is peer to peer). However, at scale there is also a latency problem when it is more than a 1-1 connection (doesn’t affect skype as few simultaneous connections) – it can’t be optimised for speed the way a centralised system can by throwing money at the problem. Also, nice GUIs take a lot of work (hence money) that isn’t the core functionality and where commercial systems do better than community efforts. Unfortunately, a lot of users care about the look, as well as the functionality, so will always be lured to ‘slick’ front ends (apple knows this game well).

      Basically, I don’t think we can ever have truly ‘social media’ until we can find a pragmatic way to deal with these conflicts.

  4. I’ve practiced user experience design for the software industry for many years, with a speciality in the use of 3D for interfaces and other applications. In 2006 this led me to becoming a virtual world developer with a ficus on Second Life and its opensource cousin OpenSim.

    Second Life has the unique approach that everyone there, known as ‘residents’, must choose a last name from a list upon opening an account and make up their first name. In other words, everyone there was required to have a pseudonym. Although, they have relaxed the policy in recent years and allow you to reveal your real name, in the first three years I was working there you could have your account suspended for revealing your real name.

    In many ways, this can be as draconian as requiring real names, it is not user choice. But it provides a very good laboratory for the realities of online communities and their behavior when everyone operates within the assumption that who they are dealing with, is not using their real name.

    Although not as large as the communities in Facebook or Twitter, it is by no means small either: Second Life’s current active population is about 1.5 million, but at its peak when its anonymous policy was in full force, the population was closer to 3.5 million.

    Every imaginable online behavior is exhibited in this world: the full gamut from outrageously offensive and stupid to the most amazingly beneficial. People socialize, hangout, watch music and performances, work and most importantly, do business. This is where the real name defense versus anonymity gets interesting.

    Unlike the somewhat more make believe transaction systems of Facebook Credits and Google Wallet, Second Life has a token based currency known as the LInden. The LInden is traded in an open and transparent currency market, conversion rate is roughly L$ 300 = $1 US, average transaction is $0.0017 and can be converted in both directions from US dollar and Euros. The last year information was available, the total amount transacted was $150 million US.

    The point I am making here is that how does a population function and in a serious fashion involving real money without the supposed safety that Facebook claims, is garnered, from real names? The answer is that was important is not the label on the package but the contents.

    Identity is formed in a context, such as this, not from a name given at birth but from a history of behavior attached to an arbitrary name chosen. I am not trying to say that the former is not a legitimate form of identity but neither is the later form illegitimate. Both are reasonable methods for attributing a collective set of facts known as a personality.

    That personality, with a convenient reference point, a name, virtual or real, is what allows others to decide to form a relationship with you, personal or professional. Trust built on an initial leap of faith or built from experience. Wether the world is real, with subsequent ‘real name’ or a virtual online presence, there are no guarantees. In either world, there can be heartbreak, disillusionment or joy of a best mate or trusted business partner. The mix ratio of bad and good experiences has little change depending on the worlds you inhabit.

    One Self Is Not Enough

    Where the real trouble begins is when these worlds combine or come in contact, in a manner that is out of the control of the user, these outcomes can run from the irritating to tragic, just like the 3rd rail in the Metro, it is powerful and should remain untouched.

    The same Facebook that assisted in the Arab Spring was used by Syrian government hackers (taught by Iranians) to identify users, and then arrest them, torture them and kill them. Or the Mexican drug cartels that identified those on Facebook who did nothing more then complain about the violence, were later found mutilated and hanging from a bridge. Paul talks about battered and abused women, children and their vulnerability as well.

    These are the most extreme cases but there are many documented cases of people losing their jobs, not getting work, credit or a place to live. Even credit availability can be affected.

    One of the greatest American authors, Mark Twain, used a pseudonym not for nefarious reasons but to establish a unique identity under which he could collect his work. Just as Madonna, Lady Gaga or the author Violet Blue have done.

    Real life has separate identities as well and although we may not have a pseudonym for each, we do keep them separate, we have to in order to be successful. Rarely do we mix our friends from childhood together with our professional lives, the behavior and personality from one would not be tolerated in the other. Just as the intimate fashion in which we behave with our loved ones would not be appropriate in a public space.

    Yet, this is the persistent and mendacious message from Facebook, that we must share and combine everything in our lives, their argument being that revealing all is for the greater good of transparency. Of course they never mention that this is the core of their profit.

    Imagine, going to a fine restaurant and receiving a beautifully plated meal with a cut of meat, vegetable, a well placed garnish and along side, a fine vintage of wine to accompany it all. That is the metaphor in which we wish to live our lives.

    Now imagine, the same meal with all the same ingredients, run through a blender and served in a bowl with the appearance of grey gruel. It would be just as nutritious and completely unpalatable. This is the eventual reality of Facebook’s ‘real names’ policy.

    1. Thanks for this response. I have avoided need-your-name-social-media. We were taught decades ago NOT to put personal info on line and then there’s FB with give us a real name. There’s been more activity lately asking for a telephone no. at hotmaul which bugs me. As yet I have not provided.

    2. Thanks. That’s very interesting. I didn’t realise that second life used to actually enforce fake names. Psychologically, it would certainly reduce a lot of confusion when people know all names are fake.

  5. First off why the fuck would you join facebook? Exposing all your innermost secrets to the world doesn’t seem like a good idea to me. But there again I am the guy with 20 email address and use guerrillamail.com for responding to articles.

    1. And you obviously don’t use your real name, eh? Ha ha. BTW, my innermost secrets are still my innermost secrets. Social media won’t change that because what I divulge on Facebook is ultimately up to me, and I take personal responsibility for that. Cheers for weighing in on the question even though you’re obviously have a busy life, being an ex-PM and all that. And being a guy with 20 email addresses and using guerillamail.com… I would say you possibly don’t have a lot of courage and don’t take many risks. Bravo.

  6. I really hope Facebook stock value crashes real bad after this “nth” stupid thing they do to DISCOURAGE THEIR OWN USERS. After all if they cannot find a way to make this service financially sound without “very” targeted advertising – the reason of the “real names” thing – then there IS NOT business reason for financially sound service, so it will gradually alienate users and die…why not just accept the fact people MAY BE WILLING TO PAY for premium services to do their own damn thing ?

    1. There are many examples of premium paid services getting extra income on the side from selling data. The whole problem is trust.

      Why on earth should anyone trust an organisation who’s legal obligation is to maximising shareholders return rather than serving users/customers? I don’t see how without reform of company liability laws we could ever end up with trustworthy large commercial outfits.

      Companies simply don’t scale well without introducing conflict of interest. They start off serving the users/customers so take off and become know but end up having to sell them out at a certain scale due to pressure of getting biggest return.

      Companies change or ignore their own terms of service and policies at any time it is convenient. They have no obligation to stick to the instance you agreed to initially.

  7. Facebook has been on the wrong track basically since their earliest beginnings. They simply copied the environment they grew up in, in their case naïve college students. You use your real name there because, well, er, you’re preparing for a cosy job and are busy making “friends” to help you land exactly that.

    This doesn’t scale, as you’ve already argued. It is however a common ailment. Take, for example, just about all federated identity and SSO systems. They usually come from the corporate world and start out with determining “who you are”, ie which entry you take on the payroll, before figuring out what you’re allowed to access. Again, this doesn’t scale.

    So facebook is in good company, and then there’s the likes of google that likewise throw their weight around trying to force you into their mold.

    I say, who are they to decide what is an “acceptable name”, or that you have to have exactly one given and one family name? What makes it “real”? Do they have any idea about that?

  8. Of course they want people to use their real names, that way their network effect is increased. I’m only on Facebook, with a not-real name, because my family is all on there and they kept after me so I could look at the photos they post, etc.

    If Facebook could use that pressure to get me to use my real name, they’d make their franchise that much more valuable – because I’m now more findable to people who want to find me. Most of them, I probably don’t even object to them finding me, I just don’t want to get sucked in to the hole of following everything everyone is doing, updating my status, being interesting and posting content, just so Facebook can make more money.

    If they find my account and ban it, I’m not going to sign up with my real name, but my family won’t be happy about it. That means if I find another more acceptable social network, I can probably get them to sign up with that. If enough of their friends also do the same thing, over time they’ll probably stop using Facebook completely. Awww, too bad.

  9. I can’t say I agree. Facebook has a policy of people being required to use real names on their Facebook profiles. If you need to use a pseudonym, create a Facebook Page and do it there, but have your profile under your real name. There is no reason why you can’t create a profile under your real name, have zero friends on that profile, and create a Facebook Page that you use under a pseudonym and do all your posting from there.

    Sure, getting people to snitch creates an environment of distrust, but so does using pseudonyms, for the most part, so I really think that argument falls down very quickly.

    And there’s always the fact that Facebook is a free service. If you don’t like it, don’t use it (which, to be fair, is what you’re advocating in the final section of this post)

    1. Facebook is NOT FREE!!! If you’re using a service that is “free” (like facebook, gmail, etc…), then my friend, YOU (your information) ARE THE PRODUCT THEY’RE SELLING!!

      1. That is the most ignorant argument that people come up with things like Facebook, Google etc. There’s a thing called advertising. Google and Facebook both make healthy revenue from this.

      2. Yes, they make money selling ads buy advertising like to target ads hence your data becomes part of the demographic data being sold. You ARE the product. Go to a Facebook shareholder meeting and you’ll see what I mean.

  10. What’s interesting about this, is that FB is assuming that all of your “friends” will actually know your real name. What are the chances of that, especially if you met some of them and they only know your first name?

  11. I’ve had my nickname, which I go by all over the ‘net, since well over a decade before Zuckerberg was even born. I really can’t see giving it up for some snot-nosed kid’s desire to tack a few more zeroes onto his net worth.
    Of course, the fact that I detest Facebook makes that decision a lot easier. 😉

  12. I’ve always hated the real name policy. I realize that one of the reasons for it is to make it easy for people to find you but what if I don’t want to be found? Not that I have anything to hide, but I’m not interested in making it easy for ex’s to look me up or give random psychos who claim to be related to me a medium to send me messages. Plus I don’t like the idea of some creeper randomly looking through profiles to know my name a face without ever actually meeting me…eww. I only use fb to keep up with my real friends who live far away. Plus encouraging your friends to snitch is just gross.

  13. I take it that artistic names and writer names don’t count for them (the non celebrity ones). Social networking should be a place for users to have some freedom and… socialize. Without that policy they can always count with trolls and wannabe moralists with a stick up their asses. In the new era of idiots taking every marketing stunts as God sent, Facebook and other companies will never lose their followers with the same easy way as companies that became famous on their own without marketing.

    I use this screen name here because I have political views that some of my friends disagree violently and because I don’t want future employers sticking their noses on my views and discriminate me. I use my real name in Facebook, but noone there knows I have a blog. Regimes with more electronic sofistication can simply set up a routine to detect IP access from their citizens and find out what they are up to. Not all of those countries have access to proxys. This whole snitch your friend is quite patetic, because everyone of my friends wouldn’t even answered that. Sadly, thanks to the necessity of making money out of a free service, data gathering is the only way they can keep up. But their terms (that change without notice) are getting worse and worse by the second. I only keep an account there to keep in touch with my friends. Maybe in the future something better will come up without strings attached.

  14. as they said in the 60’s, “…if you aren’t paranoid, you must be crazy.” Thanks for bringing this to attention. I use email in my own name, but certainly understand the desirability of aliases and the need for privacy. Do you follow SoMeLaw?

  15. Thank you for your post. I use FB, but not as much lately, due to blogging daily. I am almost ready to leave and with your post…it will most likely be soon. Good article with great feedback!

  16. Don’t give a crud about what some egomaniac nerd thinks about his business. If they force me to something, I will just stop using their dumb toys and laugh at them.

  17. I really like this post. You shed light on an important issue that websites like FB enforce policies that can affect people’s life.

  18. Salmon Rushid was using the name he was/is known by his readers and all. That could hardly be consider fake. If anyone is using a nickname that by which she/he is known to the public, or to family & friends, it is not fake even if that is the one in passport of some official ID card.

  19. If they really want something to work on how about work on keeping people that are not celebrities from starting accounts that are not the real celebs like I could go on FB right now and find 20 fake Snooki 30 fake Pauly D and so on and so on… That is what they should focus on. All these fake “Celebs” just get fans hopes up and sometimes hurt due to being cussed at or verbally abused! JS

  20. I’d love to see a place to snitch on people who don’t use their real picture. Or specifically people who use their kids picture for their profile. If I want to see their kid, I’ll look at the other thousand pictures of their kid that are appropriately tagged in their account. The ONE place they have to identify themselves should do that.

  21. I’ll admit that I do have a Facebook account created for my dogs. I hardly ever use it, so I wouldn’t be broken-hearted if the account was deactivated, but I don’t particularly like the idea that Facebook could force me to delete it. Seriously, what does it hurt to have a profile consisting of pictures of three fluffy and very cute dogs? Are they a threat to society now? It just seems to me like Facebook is grasping at straws. They keep changing things that were better left alone. It wouldn’t surprise me if another type of social networking takes its place soon and Facebook becomes the new MySpace.

  22. I could think of another outcome of this policy, people accusing others of using fake names out of spite, for revenge, or just to troll the site.
    I don’t question Facebook’s right to run their site as they wish. But with policies like this, I am questioning the wisdom on the users’ part, of signing up for an account! 😉

  23. The name I use to communicate publicly with many strangers is my choice – even if I want to be known as anonymous. Have had friend remove self from FB due to comments over her second book published. There were some severe critics out there. The name thing just seems to feed into someone’s monstrous need for surveillance. Great post. Thank-you.

  24. Any idea if Facebook snitches on the snitches? Giving up information about another person without their permission is a pretty scummy thing to do.

  25. Every week now it seems that I read something about Facebook that gives me yet more reason to deactivate my account. I like how I can easily get in touch with people or set up invites to events but I know it all ultimately comes at a price. And that price is usually my privacy.

    I remember a few years ago I heard an advert on the radio that essentially encouraged people to call a certain hotline if they saw someone just loitering and looking suspicious. And the narrator for the ad said it was a specific terrorist hotline.

    It’s so sad to see how people’s paranoias are being played off one another in the name of so-called ‘security’. Endorsing freedom while quoshing the very idea of it is exactly the kind of thing Orwell wrote about. I know it’s cliche to reference Orwell in these situations but you can’t argue with the evidence…

  26. that is so stupid because some people had to change their account because they are not safe using their real name.. and what if you do not want someone to know where you are changing your name to something else throws the other person looking for you off track.. It is not FB damn Bizz. They also read inbox’s and IM’s that is how they caught a guy going to meet a 13 year old.. I guess it’s okay in that aspect but still it’s creepy

  27. Glad to see this article, I hate FB and not akin to peer pressure but pleased my friends anyway and made the switch from a fun, lucrative side job promoting and creating musicians pages on My Space as I was one of the first few hundred to jump on that site, and I enjoyed it for years to come. As soon as I had to put my real name in I was 100percent disinterested in what facebook wanted, stood for and refused to dangle my life on a site with a nice pic of my home and street address.

    People revealing all their personal info is just stupid. I can get onto anyone’s FB with a small little trick and I’m not the old creep you need to worry about who can also sit home and find your daugher, wife, whatever and sit there jerking off. It’s always been way too intrusive of a site for me and I’m about to sign out for good. I’m a busy writer and speaker so I don’t have time to dig into everybody’s freakin lives everyday, pointless and NOT a way to make a good day great and not cash effective.

    I made about 5 other pages and made up all sorts of various names just to use it for what it’s worth….a free BLOG on whatever the heck you feel like.
    I’m blocked by my own pages several times a year but don’t care enough and just log into one of my other FB if I really want to. I promote my other business, blogs, or just my own thoughts on various issues on the pages and most of the time my business doesn’t need to be revealed to my little cousins reading yet, nor my exspouse!

    I’ve always felt violated on FB, they keep changing various settings so that if I have to use the bathroom thats magically posted (or will be soon) and who the hell wants to know that or how bigg my coffee was before my “ugg Monday,” or other nonsignificant thoughts that WE USED to just say to ourselves. I lost my own mother to FB and my other sisters are addicts and honestly I miss regular old phone calls and my friends voices.

    I was literally about to delete one of my Main pages when I found this blog randomly. I’m just sick of the stupid apps and its name is way overrated. Eventually, the “others” will come back to the normal population and realize it was just a money making IT kid and he’s had his 15 mins of fame. It’s only a matter of time before 3 other sites pop up and the younger kids will move to the next. guys here,
    Don’t worry it will soon lose it’s luster and our old friends and family will wonder what were doing outside in nature, or what life is like these days without an Iphone on planet Earth.

    1. Thanks – and I suspect your story is paralleled elsewhere, one way or another. I would like to think that Facebook (and its equivalents) are just a kind of ‘phase’….

  28. Facebook is probably thinking less about the Stasi and KGB, and more about that other place where snitching is rewarded: grade school. They’re trying to be our ‘teacher’. After all, it did grow out of a school “face book”.

    1. Twitter does at least allow pseudonymity, even if it does go along with legal processes to subpoena data. For serious security and privacy, you are of course right – and there are other tools that can do the same. For a bigger community, though, we need the mainstream products and services to embrace privacy better – rather than do what many of them seem to be doing, and finding more and more ways to invade privacy!

  29. To me, its quite simple. It is FACEBOOKS game, and FACEBOOKS rules. If you don’t want to use your real name, don’t use FACEBOOK.

    Heres another great idea. Sign up for classmates.com under a fake name.

    1. Quite right, it is Facebook’s game – what my blog is trying to do is help users to know what those rules are, and understand the implications that they have. Then, perhaps, they’ll stop playing Facebook’s game.

  30. I just figure if they delete my account, it isn’t a huge loss. It’s a privacy concern with me. I just don’t feel everyone needs to see every little mistake I might have made. The past belongs there. The judgmental people can fu.

  31. Whenever sites asks intrusive questions, or behaves sneakily by, for example, seemingly offter you to write a comment only to require a membership when you try to post it, I simply close that tab. I don’t click “cancel”, “no thanks” or anyting similar. I just drop the entire session without sending a single byte. Yesterday a site tried, via a scripted popup, to prevent me from leaving. That time I shut down the computer. In windows I’d hold down ctrl when clicking shut down to override any confirmation questions. Should things get worse, I might boot Linux from CD and just cut the power if needed to not answer a question, or similar, at all. in the case of Facebook, though, unmembership seems to be the only message that reaches througWhenever sites asks intrusive questions, or behaves sneakily by, for example, seemingly offter you to write a comment only to require a membership when you try to post it, I simply close that tab. I don’t click “cancel”, “no thanks” or anyting similar. I just drop the entire session without sending a single byte. Yesterday a site tried, via a scripted popup, to prevent me from leaving. That time I shut down the computer. In windows I’d hold down ctrl when clicking shut down to override any confirmation questions. Should things get worse, I might boot Linux from CD and just cut the power if needed to not answer a question, or similar, at all. in the case of Facebook, though, unmembership seems to be the only message that reaches througWhenever sites asks intrusive questions, or behaves sneakily by, for example, seemingly offter you to write a comment only to require a membership when you try to post it, I simply close that tab. I don’t click “cancel”, “no thanks” or anyting similar. I just drop the entire session without sending a single byte. Yesterday a site tried, via a scripted popup, to prevent me from leaving. That time I shut down the computer. In windows I’d hold down ctrl when clicking shut down to override any confirmation questions. Should things get worse, I might boot Linux from CD and just cut the power if needed to not answer a question, or similar, at all. in the case of Facebook, though, unmembership seems to be the only message that reaches througWhenever sites asks intrusive questions, or behaves sneakily by, for example, seemingly offter you to write a comment only to require a membership when you try to post it, I simply close that tab. I don’t click “cancel”, “no thanks” or anyting similar. I just drop the entire session without sending a single byte. Yesterday a site tried, via a scripted popup, to prevent me from leaving. That time I shut down the computer. In windows I’d hold down ctrl when clicking shut down to override any confirmation questions. Should things get worse, I might boot Linux from CD and just cut the power if needed to not answer a question, or similar, at all. in the case of Facebook, though, unmembership seems to be the only message that reaches through.

  32. Reblogged this on Well, This Is What I Think and commented:
    I’m sure many of our readers willbe interested in this fascinating article on Facebook – I find the organisation heavy handed, impossible to discuss matters with, and generally annoying. This might be the straw that breaks a number of camel’s backs. What do you think, Dear Reader?

  33. It’s a tricky topic to discuss. Pseudonyms may be for many reasons, and when Facebook asks for friends to snitch about their friends behind their back. It’s against the whole purpose of Facebook.

  34. Facebook has been scary to me for a long time. I’ve been getting exactly the same “Big Brother” vibe that you bring up in your article – not only because of the ability of the authorities and companies to check up on private citizens, but also because those citizens can and do check up on each other through Facebook. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told I “have to” get a Facebook account. I have to? No, I don’t have to. Yes, not being on Facebook puts me in the bottom 1% of my age group in terms of sociability, but I don’t care.

    This kind of policy update just proves the true intentions of Zuckerberg and co. This makes it obvious that they don’t care about users who need to maintain anonymity and that have absolutely no problems putting a few of their users at mortal risk just to uphold their idiotic real name policy. It would be one thing if they gave people the free choice to either identify themselves or leave Facebook, but they just had to throw in the snitching aspect of it.

    I really hope a lot of people walk away from Facebook, but I know it won’t happen.

    1. Not in a direct way, but in an indirect way you might say it has, in the sense that the same sources also fund much politics so create both conflicting and dual interests. The interests of capital and state are becoming very entwined, more than they used to be or should be.

  35. I know a group of about 500 people who coordinate having around 200 fake Facebook accounts with profiles, pics, “friends” etc that will cause fusion centers to chase their tails for years.

  36. Unreal…”snitching” as it was put i usually for the safety, protection, or over all well-being of an individual and/or many individuals. Innocent men don’t cover their tracks and doing the right thing should NEVER be looked down on. Sorry, as someone who has nothing to hide from others nor anything to fear, I don’t agree with this “conspiracy” if you will.

    1. So the fact that more of my real life friends know and prefer to call me by me nick name means I am a danger to others eh? In fact, the ones that can find me but don’t know my nick name are probably more of an unknown risk to me in reality. It is not a conspiracy: security is actually quite counter intuitive when you look at the evidence.

      Why do people get witness protection programs for instance? Because they have become a threat to society? or that society may be a threat to them? You are basically saying the vulnerable should not be allowed to use facebook.

      The only people that real name policy works under all circumstances is facebook themselves.

      You cannot answer the question of security without adding “for whom?” The basic definition of security is enforcing norms on a group, it says nothing about the ethics of those norms. Slavery had security measures.

  37. Thanks for all the comments – sorry not to have the time to respond to all of them properly! I’ll do my best to answer questions and respond to comments as I have the time, but it’s my weekend off. One thing to say first, though, is that I fully recognise that there are lots of complex issues around the ideas of pseudonymity and anonymity, and both can be used in ways that are bad as well as ways that are good – but that doesn’t mean that getting rid of them is a good idea at all. In general, from my perspective, most people most of the time should be able to make the choice for themselves – which is exactly what ISN’T happening with this kind of a system. Where people behave particularly badly – illegally – then their identities can and should be revealed, and generally are, though with all the appropriate protections of due process. Otherwise, how they name themselves is their business…

    More later!

  38. I just hope that Facebook will go bankrupt one day. Luckily, the share price is already halfway there.
    Facebook twice deleted my account, for reasons only known to them, if at all. After that, I discovered that life without Facebook is better: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2010/09/11/life-after-facebook/ I had more time to read books, to learn languages, I even found the time to return to university. And I really don’t miss all these status updates about what people had for breakfast.

  39. Like so many things in life the response should be plainly simple. Just have everyone say yes!
    Or will you be punished by Facebook if they find out that this was an UNtruth.

  40. Facebook is evil. They should stop trying to tell people to use a “real” name. That’s creepy. My name is Tothian. That’s all I WANT TO be known as.

    The world should’ve stayed on MySpace. It was a trillion times better. And Tom wasn’t evil like Mark Zuckerberg by retrieving people’s personal information and selling it to companies. Tom was cool, he took pictures with midgets dressed up as Superman.

  41. When did it become common practice to post as much accurate information about yourself on the internet?

    My facebook is completely private, as I’m sure most everyone’s is, and so only people I know can interact with me. They know who I am, my nicknames, insides jokes, etc.

    I’m not in the business of making it easier for sketchy third parties to track me down or add me to an e-mail list or whatever.

    And obviously if facebook asks me to rat someone out, I’m going to do it, just to screw with them.

    1. Another thing that bothers me is what’s next after real names: real ages, for sure, but then what about real locations? All kinds of other ‘real’ details might be expected to follow…. Self-profiling taken to an extreme.

  42. The IPO was the END of Facebook. Witness it happening, this crap is only one of the “initiatives” that will eventually bring them down. Sooner likely than later.

    1. It’s possible, of course, though the story itself has now been corroborated several times, from sources I generally trust. I’ll be interested to see official denials from Facebook if it’s not true – rather than the official confirmations that have been reported elsewhere.

      1. I’m not quite sure what that means… but the German article has a different screen-shot which (as far as my imperfect German can tell) has the same function and meaning, and I’ve had independent anecdotal confirmation, and reasonably reliable sources claim to have had direct confirmation from Facebook itself.

        Mind you, none of this is certain, of course – we shall see what turns up…

  43. Facebook is just another huge corporation. It listed at the top of it’s poularity and will surely only dip from here. The beauty of the free market is that as Facebook annoys more and more “customers” other alternatives will eventuate and take it’s place.

  44. Before Facebook, virtually ALL social networking sites had pseudonyms, aka “usernames”. Myspace, Bebo, Nexopia, Vampire Freaks, etc. Most people’s emails were fake names so even to talk to people on MSN you had to ask them their email and then “add” them.
    Facebook changed all that, and that’s why they took over. You could add people you barely knew without awkwardly asking them their “username” in real life. Thus, people formed larger social networks than they had before. Facebook also made it so that you couldn’t anonymously browse other users very easily, which effectively restricted your “friends” list to people you had at least mutual friends with. Before that, it was difficult to find your real friends and easy to find strangers and easy for strangers to find you.

    Give credit where credit is due. The old username method of social networking was annoying, difficult, and less private than the real-names-preferred method.

    1. There’s certainly something in that – though Facebook’s major growth happened before they had such a clearly stated ‘real names’ policy. Personally, I’d prefer an ‘encouraged’ real names policy, with an understanding that for many people real names would be a bad idea. Facebook does something a little different from the original networks, making the link between the real and online worlds a little more explicit – something about which I will be blogging in the near future. Big issues.

    2. Forcing everyone to use so-called real names only results in more headaches and collisions. There are a million John Smiths on Facebook. Facebook’s rise to popularity was not based around names, but fashion. It was a trend among socializing college students who had previously thought the internet was “that thing nerds waste time on at a computer box”. They pushed Facebook into the spotlight. And 2 years later when that generation left college, they pressured everyone they knew to get on Facebook as Facebook had quickly become their primary form of social interaction.

      Facebook helped sell the Internet on people who were still computer phobic and thought small, locally. Who only wanted to talk to and interact with a ‘safe’ circle of people they knew personally, and who lived around them. There’s certainly an audience and market for a product like that, so more power to Facebook. But don’t generalize that Facebook revealed some great truth about how the Internet should be properly administered, and how social networking should function for all people.

  45. I would never sign up for a thing like Facebook that required me to use my real name. It’s very dangerous, especially for a woman, to do so on the Internet. I have opinions and thoughts I like to share, but if I were forced to use my real name, I’d never do that. I have never joined facebook and never will because of their policies of intrusion and control over one’s life, thoughts, belongings. Those who do join facebook, I feel, are either ridiculously naive, ignorant, or terribly foolhardy. And then they post their children’s faces and whereabouts all over the Internet. I can’t believe how unschooled these people are.

  46. This is not about safety. FB wants real identities for their own marketing/money-making purposes.And we could go real dark here and say they have been persuaded to set up a snitch system by others (FBI, law enforcement) that use FB to track indiviuals and online activity.
    You have given me yet another reason to never have a FB account.

  47. Not that I want to see anyone victimized, I don’t. However, when it happens, if it can be blamed on Facebook for forcing real names, I’d loved to see them dragged into court as an accessory to the crime.

    (I don’t have a Facebook account, never did, never will.)

  48. I don’t have a Facebook account either but my ex is best friends with a pedophile who uses a fake name……maybe if this was the reason they want you to snitch-I would understand. But these are the people who don’t tell people what they do and go on Facebook claiming they did time(don’t understand this either)and their friends even look past it.It’s sad. Needless to say my ex lost rights to his 2 kids over this for a year and still refuses to give up his friendship with this man. This is what needs to be fixed.This is why I don’t belong to Facebook. We tried to report him and since we have no account we could not do it.

  49. Whenever anyone sees this question pop up: let the word be spread: just answer yes. Problem solved. It isn’t a test. Wrong answer? Who cares. Let FB wonder if ‘Hugh Jass’ really is my friend’s name. ‘Yes, yes it is’ should be the default answer for everyone with loads of sarcasm for FB to review.

  50. Great article. I remember a time where you could call someone on the phone and they would know who it was because they had just bought a phone with “caller I.D.” That to me was super exciting. I was in elementary/middle school, and I always abused that. “What up, dude!” “Yo Steve, what’s going on?” However it soon backfired when I answered, “Sup, b*tch” and on the other line was my friend’s mom, looking for him, asking if he was over at my house. Awkward. After that, I always answered with a “hello?” 🙂

  51. “Find other ways to do the things you want to do, other ways that don’t require ‘real names’ and don’t use such sneaky and creepy tactics as snitching. Communicate by email, by twitter”

    … by Friendica, by Diaspora, both free and open-source social networks that put control of your data in your hands and don’t shove any advertising down your throat in exchange for it.

  52. Actually—part of the stipulation for Facebook in continuing to receive ad monies from corporations, businesses, marketers, etc. WAS for FB to acquire ‘REAL NAMES’ and not anonymous ones. How else would corporations be able to track what Facebook users ‘like’ and provide their ‘direct’ marketing incentives accordingly? Ever wonder why those ads seem to be just what you want when you want it? Thank Facebook and Corporate America for that one!

    I think it may have also been another stipulation by Wall Street before any Facebook public stock offering would be considered. And don’t think for one minute that our government doesn’t have their prints all over your Facebook, your email and even your WordPress accounts for that matter.

  53. It doesn’t bother me. After all, even though I go by my real name, I give myself permission to reveal what I want to reveal about who I am to the world. That means if someone uses something I gave myself permission to reveal in an attempt to mock or embarrass me, thinking he or she can hurt me with that info in some way, they will be wrong. Instead, it may backfire on the troll.

    I think that if a person wants to start an anonymous account on Facebook so no one will “OUT” them, all that person has to do is never tell anyone his or her anonymous account. When one person has a secret, it is a secret. When two people know about the secret of one of those two people, it isn’t a secret anymore and there is no way to know how far that so-called secret will travel. Consider “Six Degrees of Separation” from anyone on earth.

    The only way anyone can “Out” a fake account is to know it is fake and who do we blame for letting others know about a fake account?

    As for the word “SNITCH”. Who turned that word into a BAD or DIRTY thing?

    The answer is simple: thieves, gangsters, crooks, bullies, liars.

    They are all people that want to get away with whatever he or she is doing that hurts other people so over the centuries, those type of trolls (there have always been trolls but we called them bullies before the Internet) have worked hard to create an negative image of the “SNITCH”.

    An honest person that does no harm to others has nothing to fear from a “SNITCH” and if an honest person has something in their past that embarrasses him or her, keep that secret personal and share it with no one.

    1. You’re essentially restating the all-too-common ‘I’ve got nothing to hide’ argument – and I’d suggest (as I did to someone earlier) that you take a look at the work of Daniel Solove, particularly his piece “‘I’ve Got Nothing to Hide’ and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy” which can be found online here:


      The primary point is that it is based on an assumption that the only reason to hide something is because it’s somehow bad – which is a vast oversimplification of a complex issue. Sometimes you want one group of people to know something that you’d rather keep private from another group – and some information might seem ‘good’ from one perspective and ‘bad’ from another. Ultimately it’s about control and management of information and of relationships – something that’s hard to do if you’re forced in one particular direction.

      As for the idea that snitching is only bad for thieves, gangsters, crooks, bullies and liars – that also oversimplifies things enormously. If you’re a member of a resistance movement, any ‘snitch’ to the authorities can be fatal. Similarly if you’re trying to escape from an abusive relationship. Wherever authorities aren’t entirely trustworthy – and that’s most of the world, much of the time – snitching can be very dangerous.

      Of course it’s a two-edged sword, and of course there are people who abuse anonymity and pseudonymity – but to assume they’re the norm, or even the only kind, is to think of the world in unrealistic black-and-white terms. It’s not like that in reality.

      1. “Oppressive regimes understand some of those uses which is one of the reasons that the erstwhile Tunisian government, prior to the revolution, hacked into the Facebook login page in order to be able to access possible revolutionaries’ accounts.”

        It is an illusion to believe one is safe in any country when using an anonymous name on Facebook, Yahoo, You Tube, etc.

        Having an anonymous account on Facebook, or another social networking site, will not any government from discovering the location and ID of the anonymous person legally or illegally. Oppressive regimes are not the only ones doing this. All any government needs is the IP address that is unique to every computer. With an IP address, the exact location of the computer may be found. Only someone highly skilled in hiding the location of the original IP address stands a chance at staying anonymous and even then it is still risky.

        Just as criminals have become tech savvy, so have the cops. Authorities across the globe use cyber squads and task forces to track down such online criminals as computer hackers and pedophiles. Along with old-fashioned police work, online investigators also use software and electronic devices to crack computer criminal cases.

        Read more: Cyber Crime Investigative Techniques | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/way_5756584_cyber-crime-investigative-techniques.html#ixzz27L8kRA5F

        In fact, the US government used the IP address account found on YouTube to trace the person that may be responsible for the film that denigrates Islam and Muhammad—the film that caused the death of an American ambassador and others in Benghazi and recently triggering outrage and protests across the Muslim world. This person used an anonymous, fictional name but the FBI found him anyway through his You Tube account and the IP address that went with it.

        In another example, a mainland Chinese citizen, a journalist, used his Yahoo account in Hong Kong to send an e-mail to Chinese democracy advocates outside of China. What this anonymous person did was attach sensitive information to the e-mail that could be used against China. The Chinese Communist Party asked Yahoo for the IP address of that anonymous account, discovered who the person was and where he lived then raided his home and confiscated the computer with that IP address. The result, the mainland Chinese journalist is now serving a 10 year sentence in a Chinese prison for treason.

        In addition, I have used IP addresses to discover the location of comments left by trolls on my WordPress Blogs (on WordPress with each comment comes an IP address). One anonymous troll claiming to be an American Vietnam veteran living in the US sent his or her insulting comment from an IP address that I traced to a remote, poor region of mainland China.


        The definition for SNITCH is an informer that reveals something about his comrades. It also means a thief that steals something usually of little value. Of the three terms that basically means the same, SNITCH is the most negative.

        The synonyms for SNITCH are very negative: betrayer, blabbermouth, canary, deep throat, double-crosser, fink, informant, narc, nark, rat, sneak, snitcher, source, squealer, stool pigeon, stoolie, tattler, tattletale, tipster, turncoat, weasel, whistle-blower

        An INFORMER, on the other hand, is a person that informs against someone; especially a criminal and cooperates with the police or a government.

        Most of the synonyms for INFORMER are not as negative: accuser, adviser, announcer, betrayer, blab, blabbermouth, canary, crier, deep throat, double-crosser, fat mouth, finger, fink, fork tongue, herald, informer, interviewer, journalist, messenger, nark, newsman, notifier, preacher, propagandist, rat, ratfink, singer, snake, sneak, snitcher, songbird, source, squealer, stool pigeon, stoolie, tattler, tattletale, tipster, weasel

        Then a WHISTLER BLOWER is an informant who exposes wrongdoing within an organization in the hope of stopping it.

        The synonyms for WISTLER BLOWER are very negative: canary, narc, nark, rat, scab, snake, snitch, squealer, stool pigeon, stoolie, tattletale, tipster, weasel

        However, if you check out this list of high profile whistle blowers, it doesn’t look as if the people that were revealed doing something wrong/illegal were honest, upright citizens.

        A few examples: In 1966, Peter Buxton exposed the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment

        In 1973, Stanley Adams discovered evidence of price fixing. His reward: arrested for industrial espionage by the Swiss government and spent six months in jail.

        In 2003, Katharine Gun leaped top-secret information to the press concerning alleged illegal activities by the United States and United Kingdom in their push for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

        In 2004, Julia Davis Reported a breach of national security at the San Ysidro Port of Entry on 4th of July, 2004. Endured two malicious prosecutions, two false imprisonments, 54 investigations and a Blackhawk helicopter raid of her home by the Department of Homeland Security.

        One not on the list was the Ford Pinto rear end collision where Ford discovered the potential for a fire from a rear end collision and decided it would be cheaper to pay off possible lawsuits for resulting deaths. The same thing happened with the tobacco industry covering up knowledge that cigarette smoking was not healthy and could lead to a painful, early death.

        Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_whistleblowers

        I’m sure that the leadership of organization (private or government) caught doing something wrong will think of the WHISLER BLOWER as a SNITCH while the legal system may see him as a courageous person that stepped up to expose wrongdoing sometimes risking death or financial ruin if caught by the organization he/she is exposing. Governments may reward a WHISTLE BLOWERS but that person is still a SNITCH to the people he exposed.

        One person or organization’s SNITCH is another person’s hero. The word used—SNITCH, INFORMER, WHISTLE BLOWER, etc—reveals the opinion of the person using the term.

        The evidence points to the fact that the negative use of these terms comes from the criminals. The widespread use of such negative terms indicates a culture that may value crime above honesty.

      2. Thanks – and sorry I slightly misunderstood your earlier comment on the definitions. Much of what you say I don’t disagree with (and I was aware of your examples) and certainly the point about anonymity being largely illusionary is true. What FB’s policy does is make uncovering IDs much easier – and it normalises it, making the idea that people should be able to have no privacy more acceptable. That’s the main point. It sets a standard… one that we should challenge.

    2. To claim that an honest person never has anything to fear by someone uncovering their identity and using their personal information against them is perhaps one of the more naive perspectives on the world.

      Here’s who has worked hard to create a positive impression of “snitching”: governments, organizations, and corporations, who because of their size and force multiplied power, can crush puny individuals at their whim and pleasure.

  54. In my opinion facebook has screwed up in so many ways it’s not even funny. As far as I’m concerned they should be shut down. There are many things that facebook has done wrong. For example the game applications are not monitored by anyone. The game app Happy Baby is a virtual role playing porn that children are playing everyday. Just go into one of the rooms on this game and watch as your children are being virtually raped among other things. Facebook is crap.

  55. It really does irritate me when ‘friends’ on facebook have ridiculous names so perhaps there is one positive in this measure!

  56. Facebook’s “snitch” campaign is in part taking advantage of the huge amount of peer pressure from naive people that amounts to “Why don’t you use Facebook? Everyone uses Facebook. Facebook is the only way to know what everyone is doing. Why would you use a fake name on Facebook? Facebook is the only way to know what everyone is doing. Don’t you want everyone to know what you’re doing? Are you trying to hide something? Do you think you’re better than other people?”

    There’s no shortage of eager young internet pundits and would be technologists who urge everyone in the world to use Facebook and turn it into an advertisement service for themselves as a product. Many such talking heads are even playing along, knowingly, with business increasingly using Facebook as a way to control the lives and thoughts of their employees. Isn’t it a bit suspicious that rather than be outraged at companies using Facebook to interrupt private lives, so many of these geeks are telling everyone “be sure to always do and say the right things on your Facebook. Your employer is watching!”

  57. I used to have a FaceBook account. Even used my REAL Name, REAL Address, REAL relationship status (married and left my wife’s name who also had her own FaceBook account.) All information they could verify through other means. I spent REAL money on Mafia Wars. The only thing I refused to do was upload a REAL picture of me. They closed the account because I wasn’t REAL. Go figure. I say screw FaceBook.

  58. My Facebook name was given to me by a bunch of friends at a party one night. Due to my work I am unable to have my real name all over the internet. So I told my friends that if Facebook ever shuts down my account I’m not going to bother restarting it and they will have to contact me the old fashion way… email or text. My thinking is that if Facebook can’t cater for people’s different situations then those people won’t use it. I’m sure we will all survive without a Facebook account 😉

  59. Facebook’s IPO was NOT a failure. The people who say that it was have little understanding of its intent. The IPO allowed for a massive enrichment of many of facebook’s employees. They got the reward for what they built. The company got a massive infusion of cash at the IPO price. Zuckerberg never intended to make Facebook a typical publicly traded company where he is accountable to shareholders. The company doesn’t need to use its shares as currency and propping up share price is not important to it or its leadership. After the IPO, it really didn’t and doesn’t matter to them what happens to the share price in the short to medium term. Perhaps someday, years from now, they may want a higher share price to raise capital for something, but it’s not necessary to anything they’re doing now or in the next couple of years.

    1. To a certain extent I’m sure you’re right – the primary purpose of the IPO was the enrichment of the founders and other employees – but it does change the dynamic somewhat, and does allow for pressure to be put on the company. Not much, but some – and, what’s more, the fluctuations in the share price have an effect on how the company is perceived. If it is ‘seen’ to be less successful, then advertisers will be less willing to pay for advertisments, companies will be less willing to be involved, and individuals may even be less willing to use the system.

      It’s not as though the whole thing has been sold, and that Zuckerberg is no longer in control – but that doesn’t mean that it is meaningless.

  60. It’s funny that you have to use your real name on Facebook but nobody checks any of the information anyone posts there. People don’t post their own recent pictures. For a while after a stalking issue I used my dog’s picture. How come that’s okay? Why can people have couple’s pages? Are they one real person or two separate people? Did their perfect kid really make honor roll and hit a home run? Are you really in a relationship? Did you actually graduate from that school? Did you really have fun at that party with everyone from work? Do you really vote that way? Did you really have a great weekend? And is he really the father of your baby? And do I really want to be “found” by people I haven’t looked for?

  61. While I ascribe to all the sentiments shared above, I feel the whole Facebook privacy policy leaves a lot to be desired. Instead of asking users to ‘snitch’ on friends Facebook should make sure that users are kept safe.

  62. Interesting. Meanwhile, over on Pottermore, everyone is assigned a pseudonym for the same “safe community” reason. Seems to be working just fine over there. Go figure.

  63. I am no longer on facebook because of this policy. They refuse to recognize my “pen name” as a real name. So they closed the door to authors of fiction who do not want their reputation associated with it for their nonfiction works. This is an excellent article and you are 100% correct, people need to find someplace other than facebook. Maybe then facebook will wake up and stop supporting things like SOPA, PIPA and CISPA.

  64. Reblogged this on Prem Speaks and commented:
    What the KGB, Stacy and other dictatorial regimes wanted to do is now easily done by the big technology companies. They can not only precisely identify you but can also conspire to get your friend to report against you. More on this later from me. Read on Paul Bernal’s blog post here.

  65. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have
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  66. when Google Plus tried to do this there was an uproar from the identity community, namely identity Woman and Kantara – hopefully this will get the same reaction. it is wholly wrong for any organisation to try and enforce an individual to use a ‘real name’. Anonymity is a vital part of communications in any form, not just the internet. Many people need to remain anonymous to avoid abusive partners, for example and will do so not just in an online context but in real life too as far as possible. Online identity is an evolving medium and pseudonymous identity and anonymous identity are two aspects of this that need to be encompassed. As it happens, technology exists to allow Facebook to ‘have their cake and eat it’ if they so wish, i.e. a ‘verified pseudonymous account would allow Facebook to know the person was ‘real’ yet allow that person to reman anonymous or pseudonymous as THEY (not Facebook) so wished.

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