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.

0 Responses to “China Mieville is not your Facebook friend”

  1. edgyauthor

    I’d heard about that info-sharing and data-mining stuff, but not about Facebook’s “whatever” attitude about identity theft. Yeesh. If I didn’t have online classes that sometimes require a Facebook account, I’d question having one at all, since I hardly ever use it, anyway.

  2. deannahoak

    You make great points about how your reputation can be tarnished. Given how many times I know those fake China profiles have been reported, I’m really disturbed that Facebook hasn’t taken them down. What chance would an ordinary person have of getting a fake profile removed if it’s taking all of this for China?

    • Marie Brennan

      I’m hoping that him making a public stink will catch the eye of people with big Internet microphones, and strong-arm Facebook into doing something about it. But I’m afraid what they’ll do about it is fix the problem for him, and not make it better for anybody else.

  3. swords_and_pens

    I think this actually provides a bit of a conundrum: don’t create a Facebook profile, which potentially means others can create a bogus one for you; or create one, even as a holder, in a (minor) attempt to prevent e-identity fraud. I’m not saying one is better than the other — I think the situation that makes this conversation necessary stinks — or even a solution, but it makes you wonder if staying off creates an even larger window of opportunity for ID grabbers.

    The worst part, of course, is the attitude Facebook has towards all of this: identity theft, data mining, unauthorized “sharing”. And yet, what, 500 *million* users and counting?* Clearly, the streets of “We’re so big we don’t care” and “Users deciding these are serious issues” haven’t intersected yet. And they may not. If it’s not an issue for the majority of people, if it stays enough in the background, then most people will keep on keeping on. Unless/until someone either comes up with a better alternative; nails FB with an appropriate legal action & result; or enough users start to walk away, I don’t see a lot changing.

    My expectation is that, at some point, someone will do Facebook better than Facebook, which will either initiate change, or split the on-line communities into even smaller camps. We’ve already seen that with LJ/DreamWeaver/take-your-pick — it seems that fragmentation is more the norm than mass exodus or mass reform in the social media strata, at least for now.

    *= Yes, I am one of those 500 million. For me, right now, the convenience out-weighs the other issues, but then, isn’t that why FB is able to do what it does in the first place? I know I’m not helping, but neither am I thinking that my walking away is going to make a difference at this point. (Okay, and I admit, there’s the social marketing thing, too, which has already been generating pre-orders for my book, which doesn’t hurt.)

    • Marie Brennan

      I think this actually provides a bit of a conundrum: don’t create a Facebook profile, which potentially means others can create a bogus one for you; or create one, even as a holder, in a (minor) attempt to prevent e-identity fraud.

      I’m not sure the latter helps you at all, except in the minor sense that maybe Facebook would pay more attention — which is to say, any — to your complaints. Somebody could still create another profile claiming to you, and then it just becomes a contest of which one the hypothetical employer (or whoever) finds first/believes. I’d almost rather be able to say, “I’m not on Facebook” as a defense, which either marks me as a liar or marks the profile as fake.

      I basically don’t see Facebook reforming itself unless they get hit with legal action. It’s pretty obvious at this point that the overwhelming majority of those 500 millioin a) don’t know or b) don’t care about the shit the company pulls, and I suspect the latter category is the larger one. Given what Facebook has done already, I have a hard time conceiving of a large enough offense to make people start caring, in numbers large enough to make a dent.

      For me, I don’t think my walking away will make a difference to Facebook. It makes a difference to me, though — I choose not to participate in a service that systematically violates my privacy for its own gain — and I confess to a degree of hoping it will make a difference to those around me, so they’ll stop signing up for that kind of abuse. Nothing will stop Facebook itself except a lawsuit or, as you say, a newer service that’s better. I expect that’s how it will actually go . . . but when?

      • mindstalk

        Or government regulation, from EU-style privacy/identity laws to my ideal government that’d go “oh look a de facto monopoly, *regulate*”.

  4. shui_long

    I refuse to have anything to do with Facebook, given its gross contempt for privacy and the rights of an individual user to their own data. I would like to think that the enhanced EU Data Protection legislation currently being developed might just possibly force a change, but I’m not holding my breath.

  5. Anonymous

    No copy at the University of Minnesota libraries: sorry! Hope someone else finds it.

  6. Anonymous

    No really?!?! What would ever make you think that?


    Yeah, I like her a lot.

    Every time I read it I see you in that one Cthulu Restoration game and feel right at home in the book.

  7. Anonymous

    Thanks for writing these. My problem has always been making the fights too technical. There’s moting I can think of I need you to answer, though it may be because I’m a swordswoman as well as a writer.

  8. Anonymous

    I’ll scribble down something vaguely like an outline if I can see where the story’s going, but can’t write it that minute (which happened with this story). That way I won’t forget it in the interim. But outlining isn’t a required step. Then I write, usually straight through — in Wordperfect, which makes some people go “huh?,” some people laugh hysterically, and the few other WP users still out there fist-bump me in solidarity. 🙂 I generally have friends read and comment on the draft, though if I feel good enough about the result, I sometimes just send it out without critique.

  9. Anonymous

    Sometimes we get to thank our heroes in person.

    In the end, so many of us write because we’re inspired, and we want to share the wonder and magic of stories with others.

    My great-grand uncle, Richard Shaver, died before I was born. I’ve only “met” him through the stories he left behind. And yet he can still reach through the pages and talk to me.

    I really should get back to writing that continuation of his work.

  10. Anonymous

    What we talk about when we talk about pockets

    User referenced to your post from What we talk about when we talk about pockets saying: […] Originally posted by at What we talk about when we talk about pockets […]

Comments are closed.