Sunday, September 9, 2012

Facebook Ignores User Settings AGAIN and Opts Everyone Back into Group Email Notifications

Have you spent all weekend wondering why your email inbox was full of notifications from Facebook groups? Notifications you swear you had previously turned off, but now seem to have been re-activated? Well, you're not alone, and you're not imagining things--Facebook did indeed just do one of their famous "we let you control your experience with user settings then we change them and trump your settings."

You used to be able to customize the way you were notified of posts in Facebook groups via each individual group. If you visit one of your groups and pick "notifications" from the top nav on the right-hand side of the screen, you'll still see three choices "all posts," "friends posts," or "off." I had previously set all my groups to "off" and never received notifications. Until about two days ago, when, first for one group, then for several, I started receiving emails every time someone posted in one of these groups. I belong to a lot of groups, so it added up to a LOT of emails--not what I want in my already-crazy inbox.

I searched public posts on Facebook and found many people posting this message:

Settings have changed for ALL GROUPS : If you go to Notifications , you'll notice that the settings setup has changed . Seems we can no longer turn off e-mail notifications from the group itself - we have to go to our account settings, Notifications and then under ALL NOTIFICATIONS, click on GROUPS, click EDIT and UNCHECK the very bottom one that says "Posts or comments in one of your groups." 
Whether this setting is new or not I can't really say for sure because I never had cause to look at this particular place before because the preferences I had selected for each group were being honored by Facebook--who has made an increasingly strong commitment to users to let them control what information they share and with whom, via easily understandable and customizable user controls. However, it is true--if you follow those steps there is that groups notification there now.

Even though this may not be about privacy, I think it's serious because it shows how Facebook told users "ok, you have control over what information you want to receive from groups and this is how you do it," then defaulted those user-chosen settings back to something Facebook wants, rather than what users had set. I checked my groups and many had been changed--where I had specified "off" the settings now showed either "friends posts" or "all."

This is NOT OK, and honestly, I feel like an idiot for using Facebook because clearly I myself am part of the problem if all I do is bitch about each one of these instances of Facebook doing their famous "oops, we didn't mean to do that" and changing user settings or revealing information users hadn't intended to be public or one of the myriad other things they've done that make it abundantly clear that they don't give a shit about user privacy or control over their information or experience. I know I should either put up or shut up, but unfortunately in my case, just quitting Facebook isn't a viable option since it is inextricably liked to my paycheck and my value in the work world. First-world problem to be sure, but still, it sucks. I'm starting to feel like a battered wife who says that THIS is the last straw, but then just falls back into the comfort of the familiar and lets it keep happening. Will Facebook fold if I stop using it? Of course not, not in any way, shape or form. But will Facebook reach the point where they ever stop abusing users' trust and personal preferences/information? Possibly, if every person is diligent about tracking WHEN Facebook fails, takes swift action to correct/undo whatever it is that Facebook has taken the liberty of changing or abusing, and spreads the word to others so they know a) that once again Facebook has failed users and broken its promises of user-control of information and features and b) it's NOT ok.

This is yet another reason I would not advise a business to invest too heavily in Facebook--say, setting up groups there--unless they both don't care that those groups could be gone one day with no warning and are fine dealing with member's complaints of "hey, I had set my preferences to NO EMAILS and now I'm getting emails every day--fix it." There is no "fix it" in Facebook if you're a company using any of their functions for a business purpose. If you have a million dollars to spend on Facebook ads or are a huge agency, you may have some leverage and control, but for the rest of us regular worker bees using Facebook for a small business, nonprofit, or even a for-profit not interested in or able to invest millions in Facebook ads at this time, you're at Facebook's whim, as are any features you're using in a business context.

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