Facebook takes baby steps on identity improvement, but its not enough

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Techcrunch covered Facebook’s launch of verified accounts last night UK time. What is more interesting is that Facebook is now allowing pseudonyms. Presumably the process is designed to prevent the kind of debacle Twitter recently had with the fake Wendi Deng.

However this process is still extremely flawed:

  • In order to be able to have a pseudonym you have to be chosen for a verified account; you cannot volunteer, you can’t pay a fee to opt-in
  • Your real ID is still listed on your page alongside your pseudonym
  • Facebook will have seen a copy of a government issued ID (driver’s licence, passport, in the case of other countries a national ID card). Whilst they delete the card image uploaded there is presumably some record of this information kept at Facebook – hopefully on a separate system. Probably not the best idea given that Korean Facebook rival Cyworld got hacked a while ago and the hackers made off with all the details essential for identity fraud. Cyworld had done this to comply with Korean law around real IDs online; but this trust breach is what opened the Korean market for Facebook in the first place

In many more privacy-orientated countries like Japan pseudonyms are a preferred way of being online; Facebook has ran roughshod over consumers around the world. It is not only about privacy, but also about personal brands; on many social services my own identity is my blog’s name or a variant it’s initials of it where I wasn’t allowed to use all the characters.

Secondly from a marketing point-of-view why shouldn’t brand personalities like the Green Giant, Mr Muscle, the Milky Bar Kid, the Cadbury Smash Robots, Tony the Tiger or the Pillsbury Dough Boy have personas the same as celebrity personality constructs like Lady Gaga?  I guess this may come in the long term, offered to a few advertising agencies in return for a large amount of money.

It all reminded me of Bill Hicks exhortation for marketers to kill themselves because they knew the price of everything and the value of nothing. Hicks solution was too extreme to be implemented. Looking at this news, I can’t help but wonder if Facebook suffers from the same root problem?  Facebook needs to start valuing audiences better, special interest social networks like Pinterest could fragment advertising spend in the longer term because it offers a better context than a general purpose social network. All that is needed is for a reduction in consumer engagement in the Facebook site.

Archived from the blog that I used to write for PR Week.