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Facebook's greatest controversies and biggest foul-ups

A run down of some of the most controversial decisions or actions by Facebook, including some of their biggest mistakes to date.

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Topic: Google
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1 of 10 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Facebook has been in some cases over-zealous when it comes to government search and law enforcement requests, it seems. Instead of taking action like Twitter to at least inform its users of a subpoena, Facebook often gives away data without a second thought, or even challenging the request.

Facebook's privacy policy says: "We may also share information when we have a good faith belief it is necessary to prevent fraud or other illegal activity, to prevent imminent bodily harm, or to protect ourselves and you from people violating our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. This may include sharing information with other companies, lawyers, courts or other government entities."

A paper by J. P. Semitsu (31:1, 2011) says that under existing laws like the USA PATRIOT Act, there is no federal statutory or constitutional right that prevents law enforcement or government from issuing requests or subpoenas; amounting to "fishing expeditions".

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For more on Facebook, check out Zack Whittaker's iGeneration column, or Emil Protalinski's Friending Facebook column.

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2 of 10 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Who is Paul Ceglia? He was once a convicted fraudster for taking advance payments of wood pellets from a business he owned without coughing up the goods. However, he became embroiled in a lawsuit when he stepped forward claiming he owned a major stake in Facebook. 

With news of his past came to light, many dismissed the case. But when he presented written evidence showing a contract between Ceglia and Zuckerberg, the case took a turn for the worst -- at least for the Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.

If he does in fact own over 80% of the company, he could depose Zuckerberg as CEO and find himself in a serious lawsuit. Whether this would have a knock-on effect to users of the site, we can only speculate.

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For more on Facebook, check out Zack Whittaker's iGeneration column, or Emil Protalinski's Friending Facebook column.

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3 of 10 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Breastfeeding is a perfectly normal, natural connection between a baby and its mother. Facebook, however, objected to the uploading of images of breastfeeding in 2010, citing reasons that an exposed breast violates the code of decency on the site.

Users of Facebook responded by petitioning Facebook by claiming that breastfeeding is "not obscene", with over a quarter of a million users agreeing.

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For more on Facebook, check out Zack Whittaker's iGeneration column, or Emil Protalinski's Friending Facebook column.

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4 of 10 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Facebook hired a public-relations firm to plant anti-Google stories in the media relating to user privacy policies. It, however, backfired when a blogger approached by the PR firm published the emails that were sent to him, exposing the operation.

Some say that it was "perfectly reasonable" for Facebook to make such claims, while others are questioning why Google was the target in the first place. The PR firm even offered to 'help' the blogger write the story; for which many journalists will be aware of exists in regular occurance.

It didn't detract away from Facebook's privacy policies, however, with many arguing 'pot calling the kettle black'.

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For more on Facebook, check out Zack Whittaker's iGeneration column, or Emil Protalinski's Friending Facebook column.

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5 of 10 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

With over 600 million users on the site, it is difficult to find anyone under the age of 30 -- or even 50 -- who isn't on the social networking site. But when outages and upgrades kick off, so do the users of the site; many of which were frustrated and angered by the sudden change without warning to many of the layouts and user interface.

There have been so far 5 major redesigns, all of which have caused much controversy amongst the users of the site -- but over time many have simply learned to live with it. 

But though there have not been many major outages of the site, there have been a few -- such as the forced-downtime when internal prototypes were leaked by accident

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For more on Facebook, check out Zack Whittaker's iGeneration column, or Emil Protalinski's Friending Facebook column.

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6 of 10 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Facebook allows "useful social experiences" outside Facebook by giving certain information to third-party services and websites. It could allow better targeted advertisements and hand over your data to others outside Facebook without your prior consent as it is turned on by default for all users.

There is, however, a way to disable it. Even as of today, many still cannot. It does make other websites more presentable and personal, but many have already said they do not want this in the first place.

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For more on Facebook, check out Zack Whittaker's iGeneration column, or Emil Protalinski's Friending Facebook column.

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7 of 10 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

"Vendor lock-in" is where users cannot access their data directly and are locked into a particular service. For many years, Facebook employed this method by not allowing you to manage your own personal data, delete it or extract it from the site. External plugins were banned and some developers were sent cease-and-desist letters.

Since, however, Facebook has opened its platform up further to allow users to download their data and to port it to another service, should they wish to. 

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For more on Facebook, check out Zack Whittaker's iGeneration column, or Emil Protalinski's Friending Facebook column.

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8 of 10 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Not only were breastfeeding images banned and censored on the site, there have been cases where words in searches were limited and restricted -- even the word "privacy" itself.

This has raised questions over censorship. There have been a number of cases where pages belonging to websites and businesses have been seemingly arbitrarily deleted or suspended because of a single complaint, with the complainant 'holding the keys' to effective ransom

But various countries around the world have also blocked access to the site for fear that it could incite protests, as seen in the 2011 North African Revolutions.

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For more on Facebook, check out Zack Whittaker's iGeneration column, or Emil Protalinski's Friending Facebook column.

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9 of 10 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

One user of Facebook managed to collect and seed on the torrent networks over 100 million users' public data; data that is available for 'everyone' to view. This caused outrage towards Facebook, with many realising the scope and breadth of how much of one's personal data is made accessible by the site.

Arguably, though the data was seeded to torrents, the data was available to see on Facebook without a username and password to even access the site. But it caused enough of a stir for Facebook to readjust its privacy settings.

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For more on Facebook, check out Zack Whittaker's iGeneration column, or Emil Protalinski's Friending Facebook column.

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10 of 10 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

In 2010, the Facebook privacy policy -- at 5,830 words -- was discovered to be even longer than the U.S. constitution which is only 4,543 words

The privacy settings were mapped out by the New York Times and became increasingly clear how very difficult it was to not only edit one's settings but let alone to find the setting one would want. 

Facebook was hammered by privacy groups and governments alike to change this, and eventually did earlier in 2011. Nevertheless, some question whether it is in fact smaller in size and simpler to read, or just broken up into smaller sections giving the illusion that it is more concise.

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For more on Facebook, check out Zack Whittaker's iGeneration column, or Emil Protalinski's Friending Facebook column.

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