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Statistics | Problems | Legal Problems | Beginnings at Harvard

I originally wrote this in 2009, when I started using facebook and found all kinds of devious means they used to promote growth.
I put most of my personal information on a private blog and just used Facebook to keep track of family and friends.

Facebook made a few token improvements in privacy along the line, but in 2018 the shit hit the fan.
It started in 2012, when Facebook started posting news in part to compete with Twitter.
Then in 2016 there was an internal memo that indicated a lot employees had a liberal bias that might influence Facebook's news feeds.
In 2017 it was revealed that there was a lot of fake news and ads relative to the 2016 election, most favoring Trump, posted on Facebook by Russian operatives.
See the May, 2018 Wired Article "Facebook's Two Years of Hell"

In March 2018 the shit really hit the fan, when it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm, used data obtained from 50 million Facebook users - mostly in the U.S. - to target people for adds and support Donald Trump in the 2016 election. In early May the number was raised to 87 million.
See problems below.

Note: Numbers vary according to yhe source. Stats from facebook are at Company Info | Facebook Newsroom
At the end of 2017 there were 2 billion users worldwide that logged on every month. That's over 1/4 of the worlds population of 7.6 billion.
That's a 15% annual growth since 2012.
In 2017 there were 203 million U.S. monthly facebook users, 62% of the population of 326 million per statista
That's 5% annual growth since 2012. There was no growth in the 4Q 2017 according to statista.
There are 239 monthly active monthly users (66%) and 184 million daily users (51%) in North American in 3Q 2017 according to TheVerge.
Numbers from different sources don't necessarily match.
72% of North Americans used facebook in July, 2017 according to InternetWorldStats.

Dec: 2017: 1.4 billion daily active users; 2.13 billion monthly active users.
Source: Company Info | Facebook Newsroom In the U.S. 75% of male Internet users use Facebook; 83% of female Internet users use Facebook. 50% of all Americans will use Facebook at least once a month. Note: An active user is someone who has visited facebook. They may or may not have posted anything or commented on a post.
See Company Info | Facebook Newsroom statista.com shows almost 1.3 billion active users in 1Q 2014, growing at 15% per year. 2012 growth was 23%.

66% of Internet users in North America use facebook.
Facebook was number 2 behind google a, with 250 million unique visitors in the U.S. in February 2018, according to QuantCast.com.
48% of all Facebook users log on in any given day, per Statistic Brain
According to Pew Internet Women and the young drive Facebook usage. Some 18% of women update their Facebook status at least once per day. Only 11% of men do the same.
See What do people do on Facebook? | Pew Internet & American Life Project


As far as I am concerned Facebook Zucks.

I originally wrote this in 2009, when I started using facebook and found all kinds of devious means they used to promote growth.

In 2011 the FTC responded to complaints about 3rd partys getting information about them. It turns out 3rd party apps and games like FarmVille could gather all kinds of information about a user when they played the game.

In 2017 Facebook came under fire when it turned out Russia had covertly used fake accounts and ads to influence the 2016 presidential election.

In 2018 it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica a British political consulting firm used data obtained from Facebook to target people for adds and support Donald Trump in the 2016 election.
They used a quiz app that users could run to summarize their personalities with their "OCEAN" score based on 5 personality traits: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. It also allowed them to gather the test-takers 'Facebook friends' personal information. This led for over 50 million users' data being passed on to Cambridge Analytica.
Facebook shares declined by 17% in the first 2 weeks of March and were still going down as I write this. They lost over 100 billion in value. See The Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal, explained with a simple diagram - Vox

This resulted in the #DeleteFacebook hashtag which is trending on twitter.

In March 2018 Zuckerberg said they were putting procedures in place to stop this in the future.

2016 update.
I still have problems. I'm not a dummy. I spent 40 years in IT, and this web site gets 40,000 hits a month, but have been retired for 15 years, and admit my son can muddle thru Facebook easier than I can, although he is frustrated also.
The primary design criteria appears to be "features" to get you to increase usage. Features to manage your own account take a back seat.

Just one example of a recent problem. I updated my picture. A week later I get a text from a friend about the picture with a link to the picture and a question. I followed her link and found out a bunch of people had commented and others had questions. I spent about 30 minutes trying to navigate from my facebook account to that page and never could find it.
I went to facebook's help page and found the instructions there did not work.l

2013 Notes:
Facebook not only has a bad user interface (UI) and privacy issues, but it uses a lot of deception and social engineering to get you to give up more private information and build its customer base.
I can get around the first two problems by muddling thru the UI and avoiding publishing that should be private, but I don't believe unethical business practices should be rewarded.
See what Zuckerberg thought of his users in the prototype he developed in college below.

Some of the comments below are old (I originally put this page up around 2009) and some problems have been fixed, but they continue to introduce new ones. E.g. a 2014 comment on profile images at ustandout.com says,
"If you've ever tried to change your Facebook profile picture, whether for your personal profile or fan page, you know how frustrating it can be. On top of Facebook's technical glitches, which leave you wonder if you're permanently stuck with that question mark of doom, the thumbnail never seems to look right."

Updating your profile picture should be simple. What is it with them?

Many of my most trusted IT colleagues don't use facebook, because of the many problems.

The bad user interface may actually be a tactic to promote the last goal. By making delete and change commands hard to find and use or non-existant, they get you to leave information you put up on the spur of the moment that you'd like to change later.
The privacy concerns have been well publicized, and they've had many legal problems.

Even if you mark entries as public, other people have to join facebook, but not necessarily be your friend to see them. Other social networking sites treat public as public, you don't have to join them to see public information.

How it works (or worked in 2009):
When you sign up Step 1 (Find Friends) asks for your email and has a Find Friends button below it.
If you click "Find Friends" it brings up a window that asks you to give them your email login and password. If you do it asks you to agree to share your private information on other sites.
You are authorizing access to you address book on your mail system.
It then accesses your address book and gives you a list of friends to contact on facebook. It automatically sends them requests to be your friend on facebook. You can skip this:
You have to scroll down to the bottom of the page, which is off the visible window, and click "skip this step" in small print.

I was in the IT business for almost 40 years and still am maintaining this site. It was standard procedure for most of that time when you created some information you had an Add/Edit/Delete function associated with it. Facebook (and some of the other new apps) seem to think that people only want to add things, edit and delete are very hard to find. Maybe that's why there is so much junk on the web.

Problems with Facebook:
Note: I wrote this in 2011, and some of the problems have been corrected due to public outcry. Now that they've hooked all the suckers, they may be trying to be more user friendly to pull in the rational people.

I have some real problems with Facebook and can't understand it's popularity. Maybe I'm just behind the times since I retired 5 years ago. I have been developing web sites since 1995; When I developed a similar internal corporate site were people could post professional background information and notes on the projects they were working on. It became the most popular part of our corporate web. If I was smarter I'd be rich now.

In addition to trying to get access to your email account and address book there are many other issues.
They seem to hide the change and delete functions if they exist at all; apparently in an attempt to make it difficult to get your information back or correct it. Their help isn't very useful either.

To get off Facebook you have to delete your pictures one at a time. There is no delete all function.

When I get a friend request email and don't recognize the name and click on it, I am sent to a friend suggestions page not the page for the persion who made the friend request. Friend requests are at the end of the list. Any high school kid knows this is a stupid user interface unless you are trying to trick people into building more links than they need.

When I went to add a photo to an album is showed me a small version of one face which was too small to identify and asked me to identify it. I couldn't just post the photo to my album.

Legal Problems:
Below are just a few of the many complaints against Facebook.

In 2006 the Students Against Facebook News Feed group, with over 740,000 members, got Facebook to add new privacy features.

See recommended privacy settings below.

A 2010 Wall Street Journal article stated, "Many of the most popular applications, or "apps," on the social-networking site Facebook Inc. have been transmitting identifying information - in effect, providing access to people's names and, in some cases, their friends' names - to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies."
See: Facebook Privacy Breach: 3 Simple Settings You Need To Know NOW at the HuffingtonPost.

Facebook's 2010 privacy policy is longer than that of other social networks, even exceeding the U.S. Constitution. See NY Times Article.

In 2011 the FTC responded to complaints about 3rd partys getting information about them. It turns out 3rd party apps like FarmVille could gather all kinds of information about a user when they played the game.

In November 2011 Facebook agreed to a Federal Trade Commission order that bars Facebook from deceiving consumers about its privacy practices and requires it to submit to monitoring for 20 years. The sanction stems from privacy setting changes that Facebook made in December 2009, without asking users' permission.
See Facebook settles with FTC over privacy - USATODAY.com

In May 2011 emails were sent to journalists and bloggers making critical allegations about Google's privacy policies; however it was later discovered that the anti-Google campaign, conducted by PR giant Burson-Marsteller, was paid for by Facebook in what CNN referred to as "a new level skullduggery" and which Daily Beast called a "clumsy smear."

In August 2011 the Irish Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) started an investigation after receiving 16 complaints by europe-v-facebook.org which was founded by a group of Austrian students.
See ZD Net article.

A June 2012 NY Times article, explains how you give Facebook permission to use your name in ads when you "Like" a product.
"A Facebook user came across a link to an odd product on Amazon.com: a 55-gallon barrel of ... personal lubricant. He found it irresistibly funny and, as one does in this age of instant sharing, he posted the link on Facebook. ... Within days, his friends started seeing his post among the ads on Facebook pages, with his name and smiling mug shot."

"Facebook users agree to participate in the ads halfway through the site's 4,000-word terms of service, which they consent to when they sign up. In Facebook parlance, it is a 'sponsored story' according to the article.
While users can change a privacy setting so their 'likes' do not appear under ads in the most prominent advertising zone on Facebook pages, they cannot turn off other kinds of endorsements that show up elsewhere."

"Sponsored stories resulted in what initially seemed like a potentially damaging class-action lawsuit in California, though last month the company announced its intention to settle out of court."

Problems from the use of Facebook in the 2016 US Presidential Election:
The Mar 25, NPR's On The Media program had a good discussion about Facebooks methodologies.
A former facebook employee said Zuckerberg defended facebook saying they were promoting a better world because the more we interact the better we will be to each other.

It started as an system Zuckerberg started while a student at Harvard to rate women. That says something about his thinking.

According to The Register, "An 2004 instant messenger exchange Mark had with a college friend shortly after Mark launched The Facebook in his dorm room, went as follows:"

Zuck: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard
      Just ask.
      I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS†

[Redacted Friend's Name]: What? How'd you manage that one?

Zuck: People just submitted it.
      I don't know why.
      They "trust me"
      Dumb *ucks.
 † SNS - Sorry-not Sorry ?
Some Harvard classmates won a suit claiming Zuckerberg stole the facebook idea from them. With a $64M settlement.

Criticism of Facebook - Wikipedia
Ann Handley: Why I'm Starting to Hate Facebook at HuffingtonPost.com

Some useful tips: (These may be obsolete since they keep changing their interface)


Post stuff about yourself:
  Profile > Status 420 character
  Profile > Note  unlimited
  Edit  picture caption.
  Profile > click on picture > click on the pencil 
To link into the facebook page for an organization you may belong to you can go to their facebook page and click "Like" at the top of the page.
Facebook doesn't notify people when you don't acknowledge friend requests or remove tags

Recommended Privacy (as of March 2011):
Accounts > Privacy Settings
Custom: Minimum friends only
  Create blocked list of friends you don't want to see everything you do
  Posts by me: friends only, except blocked list

Post stuff about yourself:
Profile > Status 420 character
Profile > Note  unlimited

Create a list of friends for messages, Custom privacy settings...
Accounts > Edit Friends >All Friends > +Create a list

Account > Privacy Settings > Custom > preview my profile
Profile > Edit Profile > Featured People - Identify relationships family

To remove a friend: Go to their page and click unfriend

Profiles > Photos - See photos of you tagged

Account > Privacy Settings > "Apps and Websites" > Public Search 

Account Settings > Notifications - Can get email with certain posts on your site

Can click box to right of post on news page to block things like all posts, games, ..
 (It's enabled by default)
In The Problem With Facebook - YouTube, Veritasium creator, Derek Muller, compares the YouTube model where income flows back to creators to Facebook where income flows the other way and why Facebook makes it difficult in many cases to find posts.

7 Reasons You Should Quit Facebook - MensJournal.com
How to stay secure on Facebook | The Download Blog - CNET Download.com
Facebook Security - 5 Things You Should Never Post on Facebook
How to Contact Facebook (with Screenshots) - wikiHow
Facebook Customer Community
The New Facebook Groups: All You Need To Know 2010 - AllFacebook
How do I take control of a group with no Admins, or founder

Mark Zuckerberg: Give Up Facebook Control - Corporate Governance

last updated 1 June 2014