BEWARE the Facebook Comment Plug-in!

If you haven’t heard the news, Facebook has made changes to its comment plug-in. Whether or not you have anything to do with managing an official Facebook page, if you have a Facebook profile and comment on blogs you need to study up.

I read about the changes this morning on Mashable (video interview with a Facebook VP too) and this evening on Facebook expert Mari Smith’s site.

If you logged into GovLoop using Facebook, go log out and log back the old-fashioned way–using an email address. Then come back.

Here’s why I think you need to do that. What I understand the changes to mean is that the following sequence can occur:

1) You are on an external site that is using the FB comments plug-in.
2) You opt to give that site access to your FB account, which you will be prompted to do. If you allow that link to be established, and then….

3) You comment on that external site.

4) Your comment made “out there” (via the FB comment plug-in) shows up on your FB profile.

As an aside, for me this sounds spammy for my FB friends. I make lots of comments on blog posts having to do with social media, health care, higher ed and other work-related things that I would never bother to share on FB, which is far more personal for me.

5) This is the step that worries me–what I heard their VP say was that THEN, if your friend on Facebook comments on your comment that has just appeared in your newsfeed, THAT person’s comment gets pushed back out to the comment section on that external website!

Your friend did NOT go to the site and create the link between comments made in FB and the outside world. YOU did.

Mari Smith shows a screen capture which seems to suggest that they have to give permission for this external posting step but it isn’t spoken to directly.

Not everyone will necessarily understand the significance, and from the screen shot I can’t tell whether people have the option to keep their discussion solely inside Facebook and still be able to comment on my comment where they want to comment—inside Facebook.

There is no way I’m using the FB comment plug-in if by doing so I expose the private comments of my friends to the world without their explicit and fully informed permission. I have friends on Facebook who are not very savvy about technology or social media and who count on me to keep them informed about changes so I know this may create problems for them.
Second reason: Linking employer to personal opinions–are you KIDDING me?

From the Mashable post, described as a “feature”:

Social Commenting & Context: When users are logged into Facebook, they are able to comment on a site with the Comments plugin immediately. Users are able to get more context about a person by looking at the text next to a commenter’s name, which displays any mutual friends, the person’s work title, the person’s age, or the place that a person currently lives – information pulled from the user’s Facebook profile. The information, of course, will be based on a user’s privacy settings.”

I don’t know about you, but I do list my employer on Facebook page—because my friends see it and because I make it quite clear, via the bio there, that opinions expressed on Facebook are my own and having nothing to do with my employer.

But this change means my employer is now going to show up affiliated with my comments all over the Web if I use the FB comment plug-in?!

Worse and worse! I am a public employee and have private political opinions I may choose to express on blogs. I do so knowing full well that someone who wants to can spend a little Google time and figure out where I work, but I have NOT commented in a way that deliberately ties my personal opinion to my place of employment.
If Facebook makes that connection that for me they just created a huge problem for every government employee (and plenty of people in the private sector who don’t want their employer’s site linked to their personal opinions).
The value of Facebook for me is expressly that I choose who sees my words. If they take that away they just lost the walled garden effect that provided the original appeal.
If I want everyone to read what I say, I’ll just post it on a site the way I’m doing here.

If you’re following this development, do you have an explanation to reassure me? Or should I just follow my instinct and avoid the FB logo anywhere close to something on which I’d otherwise like to comment? If this plug-in spreads I may just have to quit commenting on blogs completely.


Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Elliot Volkman

Hey Barb, unfortunately the nature of Facebook is to become more open, and they do a terrible job of letting members know what is going on. In fact I just wrote a rant about it, but that issue at hand doesn’t change much.

Facebook is becoming more open, and the privacy settings you select can only protect you so much. Everyone should understand this, and remember it well: Whatever you say on the web should always be considered public. Even if your Twitter account is locked and your Facebook profile is listed as friends only, your privacy is only as secure as your friends accounts attached to yours.If your friends account is hacked, or they choose to manually retweet your private message it quickly becomes public.

These new features can be useful to some, but Facebook needs to communicate their changes better.

Andrew Krzmarzick

Great educational post, Barb. Is there a granular way to change what is revealed in your profile across the web?

Testing this now on GovLoop to learn more about the impact on our members.

Elliot Volkman

I believe you need to alter settings in the Like buttons code for it to allow Facebook comments to appear in the comment section on Govloop. I just tested this by clicking like on this page and commenting, but nothing appeared. Also currently this is what Govloop can access when signing in with Facebook: Includes name, profile picture, gender, networks, user ID, list of friends, and any other information I’ve shared with everyone.

Gerry La Londe-Berg

I’m with you completely. My Facebook is for personal matters. My Twitter is for political. GovLoop is for developing myself and my peers as government employees serving our citizens. Occasionally I cross-post because it’s relevant but I have strong misgivings as expressed by you. Thank you for expressing it so well…. I think I’ll post this to Facebook now!