China Mieville is not your Facebook friend
When we say “identity theft,” we usually mean something having to do with credit cards and the like. But at least when that happens, you can notify the various powers that be, and they’ll do something about it.
Not so with Facebook. China Miéville has notified them several times of at least one person (possibly more) impersonating him on Facebook, and so far has gotten jack in the way of reply. Are his life savings being wiped out by this? No, of course not. But if you think this couldn’t hurt him, think again. As a writer, he’s a public figure, albeit a minor one; his ability to work depends partly upon his reputation. If the impersonator wanted to, they could tarnish that reputation, by sending messages or joining groups or otherwise doing things that would reflect badly on him. Even if they don’t, they are in a fashion acting in his name, without his permission. Which is not something anybody should be allowed to do.
But Facebook doesn’t care. As Deanna reports, their old system was that you had to be a Facebook user in the first place to complain about somebody impersonating you on the service; at least they’ve made the small step of changing that. But in general, their policy is still abysmal. No system of verification; no grievance process worth the name. Your ex could create a profile, pretend to be you, “like” a bunch of groups that make you look like a terrible person, and then when you apply for a job your prospective employer finds that profile and decides they don’t want to hire somebody who’s a fan of “Immigrants Go Home.” And there won’t be a damn thing you can do about it.
How obvious does Facebook have to make it that they don’t give a shit about anybody — their users included — before people will stop using the service?
I canceled my account a while ago, when they went one round too many of “we’re going to share info you thought was private! And you have to jump through hoops to stop us!” I tried not to proselytize too much back then, because I don’t want to piss off people who are content to keep their Facebook accounts, but Jesus H. The flash games just aren’t worth it, especially when the company is mining data about you and selling it to advertisers. As for getting in touch with old friends . . . there are other ways to be findable online. Seeing random updates about how somebody I haven’t seen since graduation didn’t get enough sleep last night is, again, not worth it to me. There are other ways to get in touch if you want to have a real conversation, and the more I see of Facebook’s evil, the harder time I have understanding why anybody else should play along.