DeusExMacintosh is one of our regular commenters, and earlier this year she had a slightly unusual run-in with facebook, which seems to be an organisation somewhat given to perverse control-freakery. While not on a par with the casual denigration on display here, it’s still pretty ordinary. I asked her if she’d be interested in telling the story to our readers, and so here it is.
So when the BBC discovered how easy it was to load up a ‘third party’ application that would secretly capture the personal details of not only those subscribed to it, but also anyone who happened to be their friend – I wasn’t that concerned. For starters, I wasn’t fool enough to put my personal details on the account in the first place, but by then we’d already been disabled.
That’s not a use of the royal ‘we’, by the way. I happen to own the world’s most handsome black Labrador so it made a lot more sense to load up his photo rather than mine. As he is also a Registered Assistance Dog I was advised by Dogs for the Disabled not to use his real name in public due to the risk of theft, so we became Behinder Hund (a ‘disability assistance dog’ in German – for once, the German expression is clearer and shorter than the English one).
I’d start the day trolling through news stories about Police, Assistance/Service and the many other types of working dog around the world (hunting dogs that ‘accidentally’ shot their US masters were always a favourite) before posting the funniest on the newsfeed. I’d ‘interpret’ Behinder’s sarcastic sighs and type up the comments for him. We finally topped out at 480 Friends, many of whom were just like me – disabled women who couldn’t always get out a lot, who depend on service dogs for their daily lives and computers for much of their social life. That’s the point of social networking, right?
Wrong. The point of social networking is to enable network providers to collect personal data they can then sell on to marketers you’ve never heard of and if asked outright, wouldn’t be that interested in hearing from. If you don’t give them accurate personal information, they can’t sell it. There is even “…a US decision that breaking the terms and conditions of a social network site can count as unauthorised access, turning what would seem to be at most a civil offence into a criminal act under computer misuse laws.”
Facebook upped and disabled our account.
I tried pointing out that the account information was accurate. Behinderhund’s educational background with Guide Dogs for the Blind and Dogs for the Disabled was complete, my real name was clearly listed as his employer (which I am) and was used openly in comments and messages. Because of the way we work together my personal identity is in effect a dual one, and the other partnerships who were our correspondents understood this as it was true for them also – but you try explaining that to Facebook. I felt like the lone voice in Life of Brian. “Yes! We’re all individuals!” I’m not.
Facebook profiles are meant to represent a single individual. Groups, clubs, businesses and other types of organizations are not permitted to maintain an account. Dogs cannot maintain accounts. We apologize for the inconvenience, but you will no longer be able to use this account.
OUCH! Blogger ‘Disability Bitch’ has a Facebook page, though I doubt that’s her real name. Most BBC regional news programs have a Facebook page, yet they’re not individuals or even a group.
In the end I decided that it wasn’t appropriate to contest their decision legally on the grounds of access when disabled people are still fighting to get their Service Dogs accepted into US schools in many districts. Besides, there don’t seem to be legal grounds to sue Facebook for failing to have a sense of humour.
De minimis non curat lex as skepticlawyer said at the time. ‘The law does not concern itself with trifles’. Which might be part of the problem when I think about it.
UPDATE [by SL]: There’s an excellent dissection of the Facebook legals (what a bunch of evils) available here.