Using Facebook to Promote MAG

Why should we use Facebook

The simple answer to this one is because there are now around half a billion Facebook users, worldwide, and most of the people who have access to the web in the UK now use it. It allows us to put MAG's message in front of people without them having to veer off anywhere that they wouldn't normally go. It is easy to set things up on. It is easy for members to pass on the message to their own biking friends. Sounds rather like we have found the ultimate magic bullet, doesn't it? Well actually there are a number of things we need to pay very close attention to.

What is the downside to Facebook

There is famously "No such thing as a free lunch" and it is just as true with respect to Facebook as anywhere else. The founder of Facebook is a billionaire on the strength of his invention, despite the fact that Facebook owns and operated a huge farm of very powerful server class computers and has an army of operators, administrator & software engineers. So he is making his money somewhere. Facebook users know that they don't have to pay any cash money for their account.

So how do Facebook users pay for their accounts

This is where it gets a little more sinister. Absolutely everything you do on Facebook is monitored, analysed, stored and used to build a profile on you, your friends, their friends, how you interact, what you like, what you say, what you have pictures of, who comments on those pictures, and on and on and on. This information is then used, among other things, to direct specific adverts to the Facebook pages you read. Notice here that this is subtly different to other web sites that profile the adverts to the subject matter of the pages, whereas Facebook and other new generation advert funded sites ignore the subject matter of the page, for the most part, and instead profile the user. So, on Facebook the exact same page would attract completely different adverts depending on who is bringing them up.

Who can access our private conversations on Facebook

Well, in reality there is no such thing as a private conversation on a service like Facebook. While the screen may imply that you and your correspondent are chatting in total secrecy, this is just not true.

  1. The Facebook administrators can read all of your communications if they so desire.
  2. The Facebook inference engines are busy at work munching everything you say, this included.
  3. The US law enforcement community have almost free access to everything you say.
  4. The UK Government, via their intelligence exchange program have even fewer road blocks than the US Government.
This is just a quick list, but it should also include pretty much any public sector UK body via the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, which grants UK publicly funded bodies incredible leeway to bug and tap British subjects.

Does this matter

It depends on how you view MAG. If you see it as a harmless social club for people who ride motorcycles, then probably no, to you it doesn't matter. However, if you see it the same way as the original members, as an uncompromising political pressure group, opposing any local, national or international governmental moves to the detriment of bikers, then maybe you should be a little more careful.

Buried within the various anti-trrrrrst legislation is a definition of a trrrrrst that says "anyone who uses an illegal act to oppose government policy" is a trrrrst. In other earlier legislation there are powers that make a gathering of more than three vehicles with common intent, is an illegal assembly. Combine these two points and think to yourself "When was the last time I went on a demo ride with more than 3 bikes"? If the answer is within the last few years then you are, I'm afraid, a trrrrst.

Now that it has been established that MAG are technically a bunch of hard core trrrsts, the powers that be can do exactly what they please with our private communications ;-)

Using Facebook

Create your personal presence

The first thing you need to do is to create a profile for yourself. This is just like everyone else's profile. It is named the same as you are. It will probably have your own picture on it, or at least a picture of your bike, or a cartoon or something, but it won't have anything MAG related in it. It is the representation on the Facebook system of you as a person.

Create a profile for your role within MAG

Any elected MAG officer, local, regional or national can have an email alias for that role. Just send a request in to central and it shall be done. Once you have this alias up and running, create a second profile with this alias as the contact email address. You should then name this profile with both your name and your role eg "Fred Flintstone - Bloggsworthy MAG Rep". You can then put as little or as much info as you like into this profile about yourself. However, the one thing you must never do is allow anyone to "Friend" this profile. As and when you move on and the role passes to someone else, the alias will do follow and the new rep/webmaster/whatever can then take over the role based profile. This is entirely within both the letter and the spirit of the Facebook Acceptable Use Policy (ie House Rules) and allows the easy transition of the profile and the group.

Create your group/region presence

The thing that you created above, under "Create your personal presence" is called a profile. Profiles are for individual people. The security around them and the way they are treated by other profiles assumes this. If you want to represent your MAG group or region, or local cause on Facebook there are two other things specifically for this purpose; the "Group" and the "Page". Probably the most appropriate thing to create and name "Bloggsworthy MAG" is a "Group". This can be named appropriately and can have the group patch as it's group picture. The important part here is to make the role based profile created above, the administrator of this group and not your own personal profile. By all means join the group using your personal profile though.

Why shouldn't I use a profile for my MAG group

There have been several MAG groups who, rather than use a group or page, have created a new profile, named it for their MAG group and made the profile picture an image of their logo/patch. There are a number of major problems with doing this, not least of which is that it will make MAG look either incompetent or malicious.

Why?

It all goes back to the powers given to a profile in Facebook. When you "Friend" with another Facebook user, they can see all of your profile, your comments, your pictures and your friends. Furthermore, unless you have adjusted your permissions to allow just friends to see your stuff, it also opens up your profile information to all of your friends' friends as well.

When you "Join" a Facebook group or "Like" Facebook page, you know that others will be able to see that you have done this, but other than that you know that there are no real security implications. The only new thing you are revealing to anyone is that you approve of the subject of that group or page. Nobody new gets to see your pictures or comments or any other parts of your private profile.

However, if the Facebook item you have linked to is actually a profile being misused and dressed up as a group or page, there are some severe security implications. Remember that when you friend someone, they can see your profile info as can (as a default) their friends as well. After all the other friends of this pseudo-group are in fact "Friends of Friends" who by default can see your stuff as well.

Other Facebook users, seeing that you have misused a Facebook profile in this way can only conclude one of two things.

  1. The owner of the profile has little or no understanding of Facebook and the way it works, so this will just make MAG look incompetent.
  2. The owner of this profile does, in fact, understand Facebook and is deliberately setting a trap for the unwary Facebook user in order to harvest their private information and doesn't care that they are exposing the people who befriend their misused profile to the rest of that profile's friends. This would make MAG look quite malicious.