On Friday, at first, I thought when I saw this story that Facebook provides an inexpensive and immediate method for radio's survey research companies to reach them where ever they are 24/7 instead of playing a never-ending game of catchup that started three years ago.
"We are not able to pinpoint when, where or how this meme started," said a Facebook spokesperson in an email to ABC News. "We became aware of the confusion earlier this week and immediately started informing press and people on Facebook that this is not a new feature but one that has existed for some time." The company added an assurance at the top of people's Phonebook Contacts page: "Only you can see your contacts." And it posted a message on its own Facebook page: "Rumors claiming that your phone contacts are visible to everyone on Facebook are false," the company said. "Our Contacts list, formerly called Phonebook, has existed for a long time. The phone numbers listed there were either added by your friends themselves and made visible to you, or you have previously synced your phone contacts with Facebook. Just like on your phone, only you can see these numbers."
Then, the blowback started:
By Friday afternoon, nearly 35,000 people had "liked" the post -- and another 17,000 had replied with comments. Some were gibberish, but many were vociferous complaints. "I don't understand what business any online company has snatching private contact information from my phone," wrote one user. "Where was the request to grant permission to sync those phone numbers with Facebook?" wrote another. "Disgusting behaviour, truly disgusting." There is a way to turn off the feature, which you can find at https://www.facebook.com/contact_importer/remove_uploads.php?r=%2Fphonebook. But to many users, the damage was done. Users and privacy advocates have complained in the past that Facebook introduced features and assumed users wanted to enable them, forcing them to feel their way through their account settings and opt out. "I think you need to notify us of these changes... period," wrote a user this morning. "It is an invasion of privacy, you should have permission to do this. What if someones profile gets hacked or phished?"
No wonder it's such a challenge to find a way to do any kind of telephone-based research today!
As Vision Critical/Toronto's Jeff Vidler blogged several weeks ago:
We just completed a strategic study in a major Canadian market where 31% of 18-49 year-old radio listeners said they lived in a cellphone-only household (sample size: 1,000, using a market representative online sample). And, despite BBM claims to the contrary, CPO households varied sharply by format. From 43% among the cume for an alternative-leaning station to 35% for the cume of the market-leading CHR station and 29% for that of a local Hot AC. Yes, age plays a role, but notably, only 3 years separated the average age of the cume listeners to the three stations. (Note: the proportion of cellphone-only households in Canada is generally considered lower than it is in most Western countries.)
Clearly, this issue isn't going away!