My experiments with Facebook!
Talib had just finished uploading the photographs of the recent snowfall in Kashmir to his Facebook profile and got 7 likes in the first hour itself for his album. Facebook remains the only cheap tool to not just keep in touch with national and international friends but also share pictures and videos with them. He has been a Facebook user for so long and remains logged in almost all the time. So if the friends need to contact him, they may have to give a second thought to a call, as a message on Facebook does it easily. Considering that Facebook allows closed or even secret groups, he always has a lot of options who to share with and who not to share with. This done, Talib is madly in love with Facebook.
Come next week while trying to log in from his mobile device he gets a message, 'please log in on your computer on www.facebook.com and help us verify your account'. These kinds of messages were occasional, if not usual, for him as he had verified his account a good half a dozen times previously. On several previous occasions, he got the friends' photo verification which he passed easily. In these verification tests he had to identify his friends from the photographs shown by Facebook. On another instance he had to add his mobile number to his account for verification. This, to assure Facebook that it was his real self operating his account and not a bogus one.
Eagerly waiting to see the latest comments on his new album, and new friend requests (if any), he at once logged in from his laptop. As expected, he got the 'verification' message but this time it looked different, 'if this account represents your real self, please help us verify it….your account may have been compromised with'. Next step was the 'captcha' verification which he, being human, passed easily. (By the way 'captchas' are used to check whether we are human or machine!). Passing the 'captcha' verification, he was now just one step away from unlocking his account and 'regaining control' of all the family photos, videos & important as well as private conversations he had done.
As it turned out to be, this time the account 'verification' wasn't going to be an easy ask. The reason being that verification included entering a code which Facebook would send by SMS (maybe SMS ban in Kashmir comes into play!). Another option to get the verification codes was a voice call from Facebook which would deliver the codes. But to his agony, Talib got a message from 'The Facebook Team', "Your mobile carrier might not be supported by Facebook". The third (and final) option for verifying account is to send a verified ID proof like Passport or any other govt. verified ID proof to get the unlock codes for the account.
Talib was desperate to get his account back as it is the only thing where the memories of the past three years of his life are stored (and locked!) & was ready to send the required ID proof (Passport) copy via e-mail. Just then a thought came across his mind. If Facebook supported his mobile operator while sending SMS notifications how come is possible that it is not supported now when unlock codes were to be sent. Something is fishy, he thought. He now realised that all these verifications were a deliberate attempt by Facebook to gather more and more private information about its users. The friend photo identification in the initial verifications was used by Facebook only to verify the tags in those photos. More the tags verified, more information Facebook gets about its users' appearance and social circle. The mobile phone number which was required to be added to the profile to 'verify' the account was just another attempt to delve deep into the privacy of the users.
Talib is now ever so desperate to unlock his account, but with a different purpose…to delete it forever!!!
(Shah Tavseef Mairaj is a student at National Institute of Technology, Srinagar. Feedback at email@example.com)