Beware of the app: a warning to ADR bloggers and their readers on Facebook

Numerous news articles and blog posts have commented on the dark side of Facebook – its disregard for users’ privacy, the opportunities it affords for cyberbullying, and its vulnerability to spam, phishing exploits and malware.

I’d like to alert my readers, particularly those of you who blog, about a Facebook trap to avoid.

I regularly check search engines for mention of me or my blog, something that all of us should do routinely, not as an exercise in egotism but as good business sense, as my colleague Tammy Lenski has written.

During a search yesterday on Google I learned that Mediation Channel was listed as one of the “NetworkedBlogs on Facebook“. I clicked on the page to learn more, since I hadn’t requested the listing. A link on the page read “Pending confirmation. Help us confirm the author.” When I clicked on the link, the following choices appeared:

How do you like to verify ownership of ‘Mediation Channel’?
– Ask friends to verify you (easy, but takes a little time)

– Use our widget to verify ownership (instant, but some technical skills required)

Hmmm. Sites that enable you to claim ownership of your blog -– for example Google Analytics, which analyzes web traffic — typically require you to enter a specific snippet of code on your site, something only you as the site owner with administrative access would be able to do. It’s the sensible and secure way to confirm blog ownership.

The NetworkedBlogs app on Facebook, on the other hand, amazingly allows anybody to verify that they own a blog, whether they actually own the blog or not, by asking a handful of their Facebook friends to vouch for them. Basically anyone could claim ownership of my blog, or yours, for purposes of NetworkedBlogs on Facebook. That’s just nuts.

How nuts? Very: I decided to test what would happen if I asked a Facebook friend to verify. I clicked on “Ask friends to verify”, and then, when my friends’ profile pictures appeared, I selected my dog’s Facebook profile (yes, he has one – doesn’t yours?). My dog is a good sport in that way and a willing participant in these kinds of web experiments.

NetworkedBlogs promptly sent my dog an email asking him to verify that I own Mediation Channel. In order for my dog to confirm or deny that I own my blog, he had to allow NetworkedBlogs access to his account, something I don’t think he particularly wanted to do. (Unless it’s an app that involves bacon or chasing squirrels, he’s just not interested.)

This is wrong in so many ways. Let’s consider them:

  • Unscrupulous people with the assistance of unobservant or equally unscrupulous friends could claim your blog on Facebook.
  • Anyone, even if they’re a dog, can verify ownership of a blog in the wacky world that NetworkedBlogs inhabits.
  • If you ask your friends for help in verifying ownership of your blog, you’re asking them to allow an app they probably don’t want have access to their accounts – which seems awfully unkind to your friends.

If you decide to go the widget route, you should know that NetworkedBlogs does not believe in hidden code or discreet badges. You will be presented with a choice between two wincingly hideous and ginormous widgets to stick in your sidebar to prove you have administrative access to your blog.

NetworkedBlogs describes itself as an app that allows you to “[p]romote your blog on Facebook and to discover new blogs… Join the fun, add your blog, and connect with others who read and write about subjects you like.” Join the fun? I don’t think so.

On the internet, NetworkedBlogs neither knows nor seems to care that you’re a dog. This is one app to avoid on principle – and avoid inflicting on your Facebook friends.

The editorial staff of Mediation Channel confirms that no animals were harmed in the making of this blog post.

2 responses to “Beware of the app: a warning to ADR bloggers and their readers on Facebook

  1. I agree that the verification process does seem to be problematical. But I listed my blogs on networked blogs myself, and it seems to be a good tool for automatically posting your blog postings on facebook (or not–you can choose to delete posts, or choose not to have networked blogs automatically post to facebook). So assuming you want an easy way to post your blog postings on facebook, I’m not aware of any other problems with this application. If it’s doing some other insidious thing, however, please let me know!

    • Apps shouldn’t be evil, at least in my opinion. This one is. It’s easy to exploit, as my experiment with my dog proved. I’m no fan of Facebook and have long had concerns about the issues over privacy and malware that have long plagued it – as well as the sly, underhanded intrusiveness of apps like this one. I vastly prefer Twitter as a way to build readership, and will continue to rely only on apps that won’t make me look like a chump in front of my connections.

      That’s just me. Glad to hear that you’re finding it useful, but I’m turned off by what I saw. It told me everything I needed to know about this particular app.