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“Facebook’s Anti-Privacy Settings” Exposed Polygamy Activists

Date: Dec 26, 2009
Word Count: 2000 words
Cross-Reference: Facebook, privacy settings, activism

With the rollout of its new supposed "Privacy Settings," breached its website's past-promises to protect privacy, publicly exposing and endangering pro-polygamists and any other activists of any oppressed constituency in any country.

=============     OUTLINE     ============== 
The   social   networking   site,,   with   its   reported   350   million   users,   has   presented   itself   as   being   an   important   tool   for   activists   to   safely   organize   and   fight   for   their   freedom   from   governmental   tyranny.     Late   on   Wednesday,   December   9,   2009,   asserting   an   intent   to   protect   its   users'   privacy,   Facebook   rolled   out   its   new   "Privacy   Settings." 
However,   the   unilaterally   altered   settings   publicly   exposed   the   very-private   lives   of   pro-polygamists   organizing   for   their   freedom   from   tyrannical   government.     That   mass   public   exposure   breached   the   online   agreement   with   users   who   had   trusted   and   acted   on   both,   Facebook's   online   past-promises   that   users   could   protect   their   privacy,   and   Facebook's   marketing   that   it   is   a   safe   tool   for   activists.     For   the   national   polygamy   rights   movement   for   consenting   adults,   these   new   "Privacy   Settings"   instantly   became   identified   as   "Facebook's   Anti-Privacy   Settings." 
Only   four   months   previously,   the   National   Polygamy   Advocate,   Mark   Henkel,   had   reluctantly   assented   to   recommendations   -   from   within   the   organization   (that   he   had   founded)   and   from   media   contacts   -   that   he   open   a   Facebook   account.     The   two   options   were   to   create   either   a   "Public   Figure   Fan   Page"   or   a   private   profile   account   with   "Facebook   friends."    
The   first   option   -   a   Facebook   "Page"   -   offers   rather   limited   usability   because   it   publicly   lists   all   who   join   it   as   "Fans."     It   also   lists   that   "Fan   Page"   on   each   "Fan's"   own   user   account   profile.     Hence,   most   actual   pro-polygamy   activists   would   feel   too   unsafe   to   join   such   a   public   "Fan   Page,"   openly   identifying   them   as   "Fans."     Although   anyone   can   re-visit   a   "Fan   Page"   daily   for   news   without   becoming   a   "Fan,"   it   otherwise   offers   no   privacy   for   "Fans"   whatsoever. 
The   second   option   -   a   private   profile   account   with   "Facebook   friends"   -   was   considered   for   use   instead.     The   one   condition   upon   which   Mr.   Henkel   was   willing   to   even   open   the   account   was's   assurance   that   a   "Friends   List"   could   be   completely   hidden   from   everyone   and   from   every   application.     This   level   of   promised   privacy   was   essential   for   the   safety   of   all   of   the   very   private   pro-polygamists   and   media   contacts   to   be   able   to   confidently   "Facebook-friend"   the   media-recognized   National   Polygamy   Advocate   without   fear   of   anti-polygamists'   reprisals.   had   assured   the   online   promise   that   that   kind   of   privacy   would   be   protected:   "Friends   Lists"   definitely   could   be   made   totally   private.     With   such   an   explicit   website-promise   from,   Mr.   Henkel   thereby   assented   to   opening   a   new   account   in   August,   2009.     Within   the   organization,   this   was   called   the   "Facebook   Experiment." 
Four   months   later,   it   proved   to   be   an   experiment   gone   horribly   wrong. 
On   early   Thursday   morning,   December   10,   2009,   Mr.   Henkel   reportedly   logged   in   to   the   said   Facebook   account.     Like   many   of   the   users   that   day,   he   was   confronted   with   Facebook's   new   "Privacy   Settings"   being   imposed.     Although   the   new   changes   offered   many   more   controls   for   selecting   individual   privacy-levels   throughout   an   account,   Facebook   had   also   re-categorized   a   new   subset   of   the   account's   information   as   "Publicly   Available   Information"   -   labeled   as,   PAI. 
Facebook's   website   defined   this   PAI   category:   "A   basic   set   of   information   is   publicly   available,   meaning   it’s   visible   to   anyone   that’s   able   to   navigate   to   your   profile,   applications   you   use   on   Facebook,   and   websites   you   connect   with   via   Facebook.   This   information   includes   your   name,   profile   picture,   gender,   current   city,   networks,   friend   list,   and   Pages." 
Accordingly,   with   this   new   category   of   PAI,   Facebook   utterly   broke   its   past-promises   protecting   privacy.     To   the   horror   of   the   national   polygamy   rights   movement   for   consenting   adults,   Facebook   had   made   Mark   Henkel's   "Friends   List"   public.     Making   the   matter   worse,   Facebook’s   new   changes   even   prevented   any   possibility   of   hiding   that   "Friends   List"   from   the   general   public. 
Consequently,   Mr.   Henkel   immediately   notified   and   deleted   the   private   "friends"   on   his   "Friends   List."     For   the   safety   and   privacy   of   the   polygamists,   activists,   and   media   contacts   on   the   list,   there   was   no   other   available   solution.     Facebook   had   clearly   become   dangerous   for   many   activists   trusting   it   for   use   in   the   struggle   for   their   freedom   from   governmental   tyranny. 
Pro-polygamists   were   not   the   only   users   harmed   and   alarmed   by   this   violation   of   Facebook’s   past-promised   privacy   agreement   with   the   public   exposure   of   "Friends   Lists."     Indeed,   this   breach   had   incited   a   mass   outrage.     On's   Help   forum,   numerous   users   -   en   masse   -   began   posting   extremely   angry   opposition   to   the   new   privacy   violations. 
Very   quickly,   Facebook   responded   by   offering   its   first   "concession:"   users   were   then   being   allowed   to   de-select   the   visibility   of   a   "Friend’s   List"   from   being   visible   to   non-"friends."    
However,   that   first   "concession"   was   obviously   insufficient.     User   outrage   continued   and   more   and   more   news   reports   started   being   published   about   the   privacy   breach   on   that   same   first   full   day   of   the   "Privacy   Settings"   rollout.     Users   were   demanding   that   Facebook   give   back   complete   control   to   hide   their   "Friends   List"   from   everyone,   including   the   ability   to   hide   it   from   "friends"   on   their   own   "Friends   List." 
The   second   "concession"   was   offered   on   that   very   same   evening.     The   Facebook   company   blog   reported,   "UPDATE   on   Thursday,   Dec.   10:   In   response   to   your   feedback,   we've   improved   the   Friend   List   visibility   option   described   below.   Now   when   you   uncheck   the   'Show   my   friends   on   my   profile'   option   in   the   Friends   box   on   your   profile,   your   Friend   List   won't   appear   on   your   profile   regardless   of   whether   people   are   viewing   it   while   logged   into   Facebook   or   logged   out.   This   information   is   still   publicly   available,   however,   and   can   be   accessed   by   applications." 
Although   that   second   "concession"   appeared   to   be   a   positive   step   in   the   right   direction   again,   pro-polygamists   perceived   that   Facebook   may   have   even   pre-planned   on   making   these   two   supposed   "concessions"   as   part   of   the   marketing   plan   for   the   new   settings. 
The   second   "concession"   could   actually   mislead   many   users   into   a   false   comfort   that   their   "Friends   Lists"   were   supposedly   no   longer   visible.     However,   that   seeming   invisibility   did   not   mean   that   the   "Friends   Lists"   were   actually   ever   going   to   be   private   and   protected   again.     Hence,   pro-polygamists   perceived   that,   with   the   seemingly   pre-planned   "concessions,"   Facebook   may   have   been   trying   to   obtain   the   marketing   benefits   of   users   incorrectly   thinking   that   they   had   protected   the   privacy   of   their   "Friends   List,"   and   that   Facebook   had   supposedly   even   been   “gracious”   about   making   the   "concessions."   Yet,   with   all   cleverness,   Facebook   was   still   achieving   the   actual   intention   of   still   giving   unknown   application   developers   hidden   access   to   all   "Friends   Lists"   anyway. 
Indeed,   the   very   last   sentence   of   that   official   blog   statement   subtly   revealed   the   two   fundamental   points   of   Facebook’s   continued   intention   to   still   do   exactly   that.     First,   it   declared   that   Facebook   still   categorized   the   "Friends   List"   as   PAI.     Second,   it   subtly   re-iterated   that   Facebook   will   still   let   Applications   ("Apps")   -   the   games   and   tools   created   by   unseen,   unknown   independent   developers   -   to   have   access   to   the   "Friends   Lists"   and   to   all   information   now   re-categorized   as   PAI   anyway. 
Facebook   has   never   hidden   the   fact   that   Apps   would   definitely   have   new   access   to   such   PAI.     Again   quoting   from,   "Publicly   available   information   is   visible   to   people   visiting   your   profile   page,   and   Facebook-enhanced   applications   (like   applications   you   use   or   websites   you   connect   to   using   Facebook)   may   access   this   information." 
Before   Facebook   rolled   out   the   new   "Privacy   Settings,"   when   a   user's   "friend"   used   an   App,   the   user   used   to   be   able   to   deny   the   App   from   gaining   access   to   any   of   the   user's   private   information.     But   with   the   rollout   of   these   new   settings,   for   items   in   this   new   category   of   PAI,   that   option   became   no   longer   available. 
Under   the   new   "Privacy   Settings"   changes,   when   a   user   now   proceeds   to   set   their   own   account’s   Privacy   settings   for   "Applications   and   Websites,"   Facebook   now   provides   the   following   clarification:   "If   your   friend   uses   an   application   that   you   do   not   use,   you   can   control   what   types   of   information   the   application   can   access.   Please   note   that   applications   will   always   be   able   to   access   your   publicly   available   information   (Name,   Profile   Picture,   Gender,   Current   City,   Networks,   Friend   List,   and   Pages)   and   information   that   is   visible   to   Everyone." 
As   such,   as   even   the   second   "concession"   revealed,   Facebook   was   knowingly   intending   to   continue   violating   its   users'   privacy. 
One   week   after   the   rollout,   Facebook's   private   motivation   for   this   seemingly   intentional   violation   of   its   users'   privacy   may   have   actually   come   to   the   public   surface. 
On   Friday,   December   19,   2009,   Bloomberg   Television   reported   that   Russian   foreign   investors   had   made   an   increased   private   equity   ownership   investment   into   Facebook,   Inc.,   pumping   at   least   another   $200   million   into   the   company   that   same   week.     The   report   explained   that   the   extra   investment   helped   protect   Facebook   from   rushing   into   any   possible   future   Initial   Public   Offering   (IPO)   of   non-private   equity   stock.     Apparently,   Facebook   was   actually   having   a   "liquidity"   crisis   -   i.e.,   an   insufficient   amount   of   cash   and   cashable   assets   on   hand   to   pay   its   bills.     So,   the   new   private   investment   thereby   thwarted   the   cashflow   urgency   which   might   otherwise   have   hastily   rushed   the   company   into   a   lesser-valued   IPO.     "'Any   IPO   should   be   business   driven   and   not   liquidity   driven   as   the   latter   can   be   done   through   the   private   market,'   Chief   Executive   Officer   Yuri   Milner   said   in   a   Bloomberg   Television   interview   in   Moscow." 
Hence,   the   Russian   investors   had   stepped   in   to   financially   rescue   Facebook,   Inc.   from   its   short-term   liquidity   crisis   -   immediately   after   Facebook   had   officially   rolled   out   its   new   “Privacy   Settings”   for   its   reported   350   million   users.     For   pro-polygamists,   this   timing-sequence   strongly   implicates   the   new   “Privacy   Settings”   as   a   likely   required   condition   from   the   investors,   mandating   that   Facebook   “sell   out”   its   users’   privacy   in   exchange   for   the   financial   rescue   for   the   “liquidity”   crisis. 
Despite   the   accumulation   of   all   these   issues,   Facebook   actually   markets   itself   as   being   a   value   to   society,   asserting   that   it   is   a   critically   important   tool   for   political   activists. 
The   New   York   Daily   News   reported   that   Facebook   representatives   told   PC   World,   "We   believe   that   Facebook,   as   demonstrated   during   the   Iran   elections   and   events   in   multiple   other   countries   since   our   inception,   plays   a   critical   role   in   allowing   people   to   communicate,   organize   and   stand   up   against   oppressive   regimes,   and   there   is   real   value   of   connecting   and   sharing,   which   is   what   we're   trying   to   facilitate." 
But   pro-polygamists   now   believe   that   that   bragging   assertion   is   quite   false   -   and   that   it   might   even   be   deliberate   dishonesty. 
After   all,   the   accumulating   issues   are   quite   egregious   and   extraordinarily   serious   indeed.   Facebook   violated   its   past-promised   privacy   for   users   and   it   exposed   activists   publicly.     The   two   supposed   "concessions"   still   remain   insufficient   and   even   appear   as   though   they   may   have   been   intentionally   pre-planned   to   make   Facebook   falsely   appear   “gracious.”     Facebook   still   intends   to   expose   "Friends   Lists"   to   App   developers.     And   the   company's   financial   urgency   to   resolve   its   liquidity   crisis   points   out   its   very-likely   motivation   for   "selling   out"   its   users'   privacy.     Hence,   most   pro-polygamists   view   Facebook's   labeling   of   such   anti-privacy   issues   as   "Privacy   Settings"   to   be   no   less   than   Orwellian   doublethink   -   deliberate   marketing   propaganda   using   words   that   mean   the   exact   opposite   of   Facebook’s   actual   intent. 
From   the   perspective   of   the   polygamy   rights   movement's   "Facebook   Experiment,"   Facebook   cannot   be   safely   trusted   by   anyone   fighting   for   freedom   from   governmental   tyranny.     To   do   so   could   now   put   one’s   life   in   actual   peril   and   danger.     Indeed,   activists   of   all   political   forms   in   any   country   have   profound   reason   to   be   seriously   alarmed.    
Accordingly,   numerous   public   policy   groups   from   various   backgrounds   and   constituencies   have   responded.   The   Electronic   Frontier   Foundation   has   called   out   Facebook   for   these   very   serious   violations   of   users'   privacy.     Even   the   ACLU   has   done   likewise.     Not   only   that,   but   as   The   San   Francisco   Chronicle   reported,   "Ten   privacy   groups   have   filed   a   complaint   with   the   Federal   Trade   Commission   over   recent   changes   to   Facebook's   privacy   policy."      
The   national   polygamy   rights   movement   for   consenting   adults   is   simply   another   activist   constituency   whose   past-promised   privacy   protection   has   been   violated.     Without   absolute   privacy   protection   fully   restored   and   guaranteed,   Facebook   has   become   very   dangerous   for   most   private   polygamy   rights   activists   to   confidently   trust   in   the   fight   for   freedom. 
Hence,   pro-polygamists   add   their   voice   to   the   growing   outcry   of   users   opposing   the   privacy   breach.   As   the   polygamy   movement's   "Facebook   Experiment"   demonstrates,   activists   from   all   constituencies   require   an   end   to   "Facebook's   Anti-Privacy   Settings." 


Bibliographic URLs:,0,4419776.story 
[Reviewed for publication - Review Board.]

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