The Telegraph just reported on a case of a UK teenager who accidentally posted her birthday party invite as ‘public’ and ended up with 21,000 promised guests and in a whole heap of trouble with her Mum (and the local police, who now have to spend time and resource patrolling the area she lives in on the date of the now-cancelled party).
Unsurprisingly, it’s not the first time this has happened. As the Telegraph reports, in February, a family’s home was “trashed” after their teenage daughter advertised a party on Facebook, which was gatecrashed by dozens of adults, and there have been numerous other reports of such incidents.
Why am I so cross?
For starters, when contacted, a Facebook spokesperson said: “When someone creates an event on Facebook it clearly says ‘anyone can view and rsvp (public event)’. If you leave this checked then it is a public event so anyone can view the content and respond.”
Now, the girl in question may well have set her profile privacy settings the way she should. But events pages are separate from this, and your profile settings don’t apply. This may well not be obvious to your average teenager, excited about her birthday bash. The ‘anyone can view and RSVP’ could well be taken to mean ‘any of your friends can view..’.
If Facebook have had instances of this reported (and they have), then why don’t they do the sensible thing and put up a interstitial warning of some kind if the public box – which is default checked by the way – is left checked? Something like:
“STOP! ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT EVERY FACEBOOK USER IN THE WORLD TO SEE THIS INVITATION AND COME TO YOUR EVENT?”
It’s not hard is it?
Oh, and I’m also cross that once again they were proved impossible to contact (despite their assurance that “Facebook also works with law enforcement where appropriate, and has set up a 24-hour helpline for the police to contact us if needed.”)
And actually – to be honest, I’m not that chuffed with The Telegraph, who whilst publicising this story of personal information leakage, gave the girl’s name, age, school, town, mother’s name and age – and even the name of the father and the fact he is estranged from the mother. Thanks for that.