Unexpected Facebook consequences

The Compare People application is one of those annoying things that gets people to play with Facebook data and emails. Given that increasing numbers of politicians can now be found on the social networking sites, their personal data is as much up for grabs as anyone else’s. Compare People gets you to rank those amongst your friends as best at studying, best looking, and so on and so on until you get weird emails like this (some details of my facebook friends who are less in the public redacted):

“Who studies harder”
1. Ming Campbell
2. ——- ——
3. Nick Clegg

* “Who is more athletic”
1. Ming Campbell
2. — —–
3. — ——–

* “Who is more naturally talented”
1. Ming Campbell
2. Nick Clegg
3. —- ——-

Facebook’s use by politicians has hit the news in Lincoln this week with Tory councillor Oliver Peake resigning his executive position whilst apologising for inappropriate use of his Facebook page. His crime? Completing one of those endless quizzes that Facebook users send you every day. In particular, “What terrorist group are you?” and “Which Serial Killer are you?” I initially thought it was a bit harsh that Cllr Peake should lose his portfolio over completing a quiz that thousands of ordinary Facebook users have done without comment… then I saw a screenshot of his profile on the Lincs Echo website, complete with a large photo of a bikini model, and thought maybe that’s not entirely appropriate for an upstanding member of a council.

Facebook and politics are on my mind in particular this week because for the first time, a resident in my ward has friended me on Facebook, whilst up until now, it’s mostly been Lib Dems and school friends who have joined my network. Now, one of my TRAs is starting to use Facebook to organise themselves, and those residents will get to see which stupid quizes I’ve undertaken, what my IQ is and whether I have a bigger brain than my friends. Worse, they will see my terrible taste in movies, all my Flickr photos, my Twitter updates and some of my off-colour jokes.

I discussed the case of the “serial killer quiz” with those residents at the launch party for their new play park yesterday (the launch was great, with a clown, facepaints, a fire engine and cake!) and they were non-plussed. They had all taken the serial killer quiz themselves and half of them could tell me off the top of their heads which serial killer they were. As far as they were concerned, they thought that using Facebook just like everyone else would be a good thing for their local councillor, not a bad thing.

I’m not so sure. I will continue to be careful with my Facebook profile – no Funwall, no X-me – rather than using the greater granularity settings to bar some of my contacts from seeing too much. But at the end of the day, if I do something someone considers stupid enough, I probably won’t realise until it’s my turn to get that dreaded phonecall from the local paper.

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9 Comments

  • Liam Pennington 7th Apr '08 - 2:16pm

    My profile is not cluttered with every app I’ve ever said yes to, and frankly I don’t really care what serial killer I could be! But I suppose Facebook is far more “open” for people to get people talking to each other than MySpace…

    Facebook has far more opportunities for parties, associations and the like, but I suppose if an elector suddenly finds a Liberal Democrat has a “What Nazi Figure Are You” application on their front page, it could cause trouble!

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