As a follow-up to my previous comments about the overhyped release of a popularity contest, aka Fabulis, I thought I’d document the poor responses I’ve received so far about deleting the account I created on there before I realised just how silly a site it was.
The first response from the site founder, Jason Goldberg, at least looked helpful. Not being able to find any information on their support forums (and seemingly having my query about it not show up in any searches an hour or two after it was made … funny that), I emailed Jason to ask him how I make myself, as you might say, “unfabulis”. I got this response:
Give us some patience please though. What we’re building is more than just a popularity contest. Give us some time to show you that.
I replied in email to Jason to explain what I thought they’d done wrong. I did reiterate my dislike for a hyped up popularity contest, but went on to describe what the core of the issue I had was: creating a semblance of severe privacy violations as the default (on top of the shallow popularity contest) was a significant breach of trust:
I think your team have actually also been remarkably short sighted in creating a significant privacy scare for a lot of users by having their profile appear to include all their private information from Facebook. The assurances that “it’s just because you have full access to your Facebook profile therefore you see everything” approach is at best poor security mitigation. I’d suggest that by default Fabulis should have been designed to show the _unprivileged_ view. As someone who works in enterprise IT data protection and security, I can honestly say that setting up the appearance of privacy violations and then doesn’t offer an easy “delete my account” option from within the service pretty much breaks a whole raft of mores in relation to appropriate online behaviour.
I didn’t expect a response to that of course – I understand as the head of a startup and currently voted #1 most fabulis fabbit (their term, not mine), Jason is probably busy.
Their lack of understanding of privacy is quite frankly somewhat appalling, as evidenced by the fact that when I emailed their settings email address I got an automated response, but no further update. A second email today has also received no response at all.
In frustration this morning I tweeted:
Hey what’s not @fabulis? Not being able to opt out once you realise what a sham a site is. #privacy #narcissism #joke
In response I got the following tweet back:
@prestondeguise you can change your settings here. http://bit.ly/b2Hgqb
However, checking their profile link just gave details for unsubscribing to email alerts – no profile removal at all. Most annoyingly, in order to actually even log back in again, I had to re-allow Fabulis to connect to my Facebook account. Poor form indeed that account management to a service you want to drop requires you to reconnect it to services you’re not happy about it connecting to – even more so given that it’s that connection that has created the breach of trust.
So, since I was actually getting responses in this forum I tweeted back:
. @fabulis Your settings page has no option for account removal. I’m not after a reduction in emails, I’m after account _removal_.
I hoped this might trigger an “OK, we’ve removed your account” style response (if nothing else so they’d shut me up). However, a lame response of:
@prestondeguise you can remove yourself from the list of fabulis gay men today, close your account option will come next.
I have to admit, with a little disgust I fired back:
. @fabulis Seems to me that starting a service without including a “close your account” option out the door was poor judgement.
Since then, no response.
What’s wrong with this? First, it’s grossly inappropriate to start with, by setting up a service where you create the impression of a privacy breach, regardless of whether there is a breach or not. For reasons two through to 100, see the “First” reason. I can’t stress this further.
Perhaps the folks at Fabulis might choose to go read Danah Boyd’s fantastic opening speech at SXSW regarding “Privacy and Publicity”, then they might understand why I think they’ve utterly failed at a core component of generating user trust. In fact, if you think I’m over-reacting, then I’d suggest that you, too, should perhaps consider reading the lecture.
Update – I got this clearly annoyed tweet back from @fabulis this afternoon:
@prestondeguise gimme a break. we’ve had 3 users ask for what u r asking 4 in 1st 48 hours and we’ll enable it within 72 hours of launch.
Hmmm, so I’m the person who’s annoyed about creating an apparent breach of trust on my account, my data and privacy – and I’m meant to cut them some slack? That doesn’t wash with me. So my response is as follows:
. @fabulis It’s a fundamental part of offering a service. If you’d given timeframe from the start it wouldn’t have been such a #fail.
But it goes more than this. Yes, if they’d have responded saying “OK, we’ll have your account removed within 72 hours”, I might have cut them the slack they’re asking for. But instead I didn’t get any timings, just a “close your account will come next” … how am I meant to interpret next without any clarification? Plenty of online services in a variety of fields talk about what they’re doing next, and that can mean anything from within the next week to the next 2 years. Next is not precise.
Again, the fundamental failure here is setting up a system that creates an apparent breach of trust and privacy, but not from the outset having an option to have users completely delete their accounts.