Facebook’s Trapdoor

By | May 12, 2008

I’m puzzled.

I can’t understand this quirk in Facebook that means I can’t politely brush off someone requesting my friendship without giving them access to all my friends and a lot of my info. 

Receive a friend request and you get this message:


I have a rule that I don’t make buddies with people I’ve not actually met, or know online. Instead I divert them to LinkedIn, a sort of frat house for networking. Facebook is for friends. So I usually try to brush them off with a message.

Only you can’t do that anymore.

Click on the Send message button, and you get this text at the bottom of the message window:


It says:

If you send xxxx a message, you will give them permission to view your list of friends, as well as your Basic, Work and Education info for one month.

In other words, you can confirm someone, you can ignore someone, but you can’t send them a message that says “do I know you?” or “not sure we’ve met, how about you email me on LinkedIn?” Well you can, but you’ve got to give them some of the biggest keys to your little Facebook kingdom first.

Why? What is the point of that? What possible benefit is it to me to allow that to happen? Why would I let someone I haven’t met, and who I have no friends in common with, have access to that kind of information? And, more importantly, shouldn’t I be a little bit worried that my Facebook friends are allowing this to happen? How many of us actually read those little notes?

I am trying to think of a logical reason for this. Why would Facebook make it impossible for someone to reply to a request with a message that does not commit them to giving access to their information?

The only reason I can assume, perhaps because of my conspiracy-addled mind and limited brain power, is this: If the person requesting the connection has access to that information, so do most of the applications he is using. Facebook doesn’t care how long the connections last between users; all it cares is that it has access to the data. Who cares if it’s only for one month? That information only needs to be grabbed once. In other words, my theory goes, that data is valuable enough for Facebook to create a sort of trapdoor through which unsuspecting folk might allow their data to be compromised.

Or am I missing something? I must be.

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