News that Facebook is working on a standalone app that will allow users to make posts anonymously inspires both surprise and incredulity from us in equal parts.
The New York Times reports that the app is due to be released ‘in the coming weeks’, and on the face of it this appears to show an openness and willing to experiment from the social network giant.
This idea is given more credibility by Facebook’s recent climb-down over the use pseudonyms, which led to Face book apologizing to the LGBT community (who were particularly adversely affected by Facebook’s real name only policy), and relaxing the policy in certain (limited) circumstances (although the whole affair is admittedly something of a mystery to this author, who has used a blatant pseudonym on Facebook for years without any problems).
Hints at a move towards allowing users’ ‘anonymity’ came in May, when Facebook unveiled to its F8 developer conference ‘Anonymous Login’, which would allow Facebook users to login to other internet services using their Facebook account, but without sharing any of their personal information when doing so,
‘People tell us they’re sometimes worried about sharing information with apps and want more choice and control over what personal information apps receive. Sometimes people want to try out apps, but they’re not ready to share any information about themselves.
For this, we’re introducing a way to log in to apps anonymously. Anonymous Login lets people log in to apps so they don’t have to remember usernames and passwords, but it doesn’t share personal information from Facebook.
People can decide later if they want to share any additional information, once they understand more about the app.’
Now sorry, but we simply do not buy Facebook’s newfound concern for its users’ privacy. Its entire business model is built about learning as much as it can about individuals, and then using that information to sell advertising, and Facebook’s track record of giving a hoot about users privacy is abysmal.
What we think (and the statement above if analyzed carefully would seem confirm this for us), is that Facebook is concerned that some people (and in the wake of Snowden and other privacy scandals this number is likely increasing) are not joining or using Facebook because they are concerned about their privacy, and are therefore not generating any income for social media giant.
However, the offer of anonymity in the hope of luring these wayward souls into the (profitable) fold is likely disingenuous at best, because while Anonymous Login and the (rumored) upcoming Anonymity App may shield user’s identities other users (and third party websites), it is unlikely to hide them from Facebook!
This means that Facebook is providing the illusion of anonymity, but will know exactly who is using, how, and to whom, they are using the service/app, and can use this information to build up a detailed profile of individuals, ripe for targeted advertising, just as if they were using the regular Facebook service…