When Facebook makes changes, they tend to add them in them quietly, on the sly. That is certainly the case this week, as Facebook made big changes to the way it handles user privacy and online games. It’s definitely important to keep watch on anything Facebook does, because it almost always effects the way your personal and business accounts work.
It came to light this week that Facebook has been importing the contacts from your mobile device into your Facebook account by default, and in some cases sharing this information with third party vendors to “improve your Facebook experience”. No thanks. Not good. If you have the Facebook App on your iPhone, Blackberry or Android device, you need to investigate and check if your contacts are safe and sound. Go to your Profile settings, and check under “Imported Contacts”. If you see your entire phone book there, then your contacts have been imported. If it’s blank, your OK.
Getting your contacts out of FB’s clutches, and keeping them out is a two step process. First, open up the FB app on your mobile device. Under the settings tab, make sure the “Sync Contacts” setting is not checked. Do this first. Next, go int the settings on your Facebook account through the browser on your computer. Under the “Contacts” settings, click the Remove link on the Facebook Remove Imported Contacts page. A message will pop up, telling you this will take a few moments, and then your contacts are safe for the time being.
This is a pretty sneaky move on Facebook’s part. It’s especially disturbing for those of us that use Facebook for our businesses. Having your confidential business contacts picked over by strangers running a social network doesn’t leave you feeling good. There haven’t been any reports of this information being misused, yet. However, we all know that web security is only as strong as its’ weakest link, and all it takes is one rogue employee to really mess with your business, by messing with the people you do business with.
Facebook also introduced a number of changes to its’ gaming engine, seemingly in response to the launch of Games on Google +. If your business is active using Facebook games for promotions, or as a way to attract new users to your product, this is definitely something to pay attention to.
First, on the UX side, Facebook has increased the size of the area on the screen available for gaming. This will let developers create gaming apps that have more robust graphic content, more details and look better overall. The relationship between game developers and Facebook has been somewhat rocky, so maybe giving them a better visual platform will smooth things over. It could also be seen as a way to keep developerss writing games for Facebook, as opposed to jumping over to Google +.
Facebook games also introduced a “Live Ticker”, which will increase the connectivity between users who game. You can now see what your friends are playing, what they’re scoring and vicariously game along with them. This isn’t a huge technological jump, but feels more like “catching up” with the other services out there. These aren’t ground breaking features, but will be a big step towards making social gaming on the platform more social. Google + already has similar social gaming features, so view this as a case of keeping up with the Joneses, if you like. Finally, and also not too exciting, but useful, you can now bookmark your favorite games as you play them.
Looking at these changes from 10,000 feet, it appears that Facebook views Google + as a real threat to its’ market share. Grabbing your contacts, to gather more analytic data on you, to “improve your experience” seems to be a way to make sure you stick around. Some might actually see importing your contacts into Facebook as an actual useful feature. Maybe, if they asked your permission first. The improved gaming experience is absolutely a defensive move, meant to make certain that Facebook Games can keep up with the new games on Google +.
Economics 101 will tell you that when there is fierce competition, the consumer is usually the one that benefits by getting more bang for their buck. With Facebook and Google + about to go toe to toe, will that be the case? It’s too early to tell, and so far, with all this shady sneaking around the consumer seems to be on the losing end of things. Where do you see the Facebook vs. Google + battle going in a few months from now? Can there ever be a clear winner? We’d love to hear what you think, so drop us a comment and let’s get this conversation started.