How many times can I log into Facebook and shout, "WTF?!!?"
A lot, as it turns out.
Today I logged in from a web browser I hadn't used before, and Facebook wanted to confirm it was really me. My bank does this too. What's interesting is that Facebook gave me a choice of how to verify my identity: I could answer a question along the lines of "Who is your favorite superhero?" or I could identify my friends tagged in photos. I went with the photo option. Normally this wouldn't be my first choice given that I have prosopagnosia
, but I just had to see what this was all about.
The first set of photos popped up, with a list of names below. The 3 photos included one of a couple of Muppets, one of this person at age 13 or so, and one as an adult. The names listed included several people I hadn't seen in ages. I was stumped! I chose to use the first of my two "skip" options.
The next set started with this shot:
Face-blindness is definitely not a disadvantage here! The other two photos weren't much better -- they were taken from far away and impossible to make out. Fortunately there were enough clues -- the number of male children following him around, among other things -- that I was willing to make a guess. Next up was someone I haven't seen in, let's see, maybe 28 years. Lucky for me she hasn't aged as much as I have in the interim. The last was an easy one -- I only know one person who runs around in a suit of armor smacking people with a stick.
One thing I didn't like was the success page. It said, "Thanks Bill -- you've successfully restored your account." Restored? What does that mean? All I was doing was trying to log in. I wasn't trying to restore anything.
As I've thought about it, more observations and questions have come to mind, ranging from annoying to troubling. In no particular order:
- Do any of my Facebook friends know that their names and photos (and photos of their kids) are being used in this way?
- Is my photo being used this way?
- If someone uploads a photo of me and tags me in it, and I don't like it, is there anything I can do about it?
- Can I prevent my name and photos from being used in this way?
- What else is Facebook doing or planning to do with its giant database of photos, text, and relationships?
- Should I only friend people I know I'll be able to recognize?
Maybe this isn't that big a deal. I never thought the "superhero" and "mother's maiden name" questions were all that secure, especially since there's a good chance that someone trying to access your account already knows you and could probably answer some of them. Perhaps the photos are a more secure way to do this.
Or maybe it's bigger than that. Facebook knows what you look like, where you go on vacation, and what you think. It knows what you looked like as a child and what your kids look like now. And if you don't give it to them, your friends will.
Facebook is doubleplus good!