“This isn’t a bug, it’s a feature”

Something is wrong here. If someone believes, even fleetingly, that a feature on your platform is a bug, that’s a problem.

And I think that the bug feature that I read about this morning which has apparently been rearing its ugly head on Facebook recently is potentially going to be a big problem.

ZDNet reports that Facebook has been automatically publishing posts under people’s name and placing them at the top of the News Feed for their friends to see. Now, while that might seem annoying, it probably doesn’t really present any sort of problem – that is, unless the content that Facebook is publishing under your name is politically controversial:

One associate whose name was attached to a rabidly right-wing political post said she disagreed vehemently with the sentiment it expressed, and she couldn’t imagine why it appeared under her name.

Or just plain embarrassing [screenshot]:

A colleague of mine and a friend of mine had both “liked” drugstore.com somewhere along the way. No problem, right? Wrong.

Drugstore.com recently ran a somewhat racy promotion for the “Date Night Gift Pack from K-Y: Including $10 off 2 movie tickets, Yours & Mine Lubes, and K-Y Touch Warming Oil,” and the ad implied that my associates liked the K-Y products. To say that my colleague and my friend were mortified would be an understatement!

Now, that could be a little distressing on a personal level, but imagine that you were using your Facebook account in a professional purpose and your clients or colleagues get suggestions that you are recommending sexual lubricants. Ouch!

Facebook’s response to the ZDNet article confirms that this can happen to anyone who Likes a page – any Facebook page:

To help people find new Pages, events, and other interesting information, people may now see posts from a Page a friend likes. These posts will include the social context from your friends who like the Page and will respect all existing settings.

We’ve warned you before about who you share your social media account details with, but it’s a bit difficult not to share your Facebook account details with er… Facebook. Personally, I’m not a huge Facebook user, but I do see its value and its uses. However, I can only see that this bug feature will dissuade users from Liking pages, which is the primary way that Facebook now works. Own goal?

ZDNet continues:

Even worse, if you’re the recipient of these messages, there is no way to prevent them from appearing in your News feed. You can hide individual stories as they appear, but you can’t block the page from posting again, and again, and again. And even if you remove the friend completely from your news feed, the forcibly shared posts appear. The only way to stop it is to unfriend the person whose Facebook identity is being misused.

If you’re concerned that inappropriate content might appear in your friends’ News feed under your name, you should immediately go through the list of pages for which you’ve clicked Like, and Unlike any that you think pose the potential of embarrassing you.

I’ve pored through Facebook account settings and can find no way to disable this kind of sharing. There are settings that control whether your name is attached to ads, but these aren’t ads. If they were, the word “Sponsored” would appear alongside them. (And if they’re unlabeled ads, well, that opens another can of worms, doesn’t it?)

In the meantime, I’d go for that middle paragraph option above. [Profile -> Likes -> Go to individual FB page -> Hover over LIKED button -> Click Unlike from dropdown menu].

The trouble is, with sites as innocuous as drugstore.com (think of it as a Boots or a Clicks pharmacy) posting “dodgy” stuff as you, where do you draw the line?

For your peace of mind, I promise that 6000.co.za’s Facebook page will probably never post dodgy stuff on your behalf.

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