Carol Zara talks to Techvibes about Facebook, online privacy and more

Posted by Techvibes NewsDesk

dbczCanada's most famous geek girl, Carol Zara recently had her Facebook profile deleted by Facebook

If you're not yet familiar with Carol here's a little bio:

Carol Zara has a background in music video direction as well as on camera interviewer. In early 2009, Carol created a Twitter account that quickly snowballed into something more than simple social networking. Her fame was growing exponentially as geeks all over the globe began following Carol's tweets. With "Zara" in high demand, Carol created DigitallyBlonde.com to help cement her status as the new "Queen of Nerd". Designed as a blog written from a decidedly blonde perspective, Carol could now feature Internet news, bizarre web posts and videos  .

Carol has been featured on G4 TV's "Women of the Web", as one of the top three women of geek culture. Carol has also been nominated for Wired's Sexiest Geeks and the Shorty Awards' Best Geek Girl, which she went on to win.

We recently caught up with Canada's Queen of Nerd to get more in-depth about her most recent spat with the world's most popular social network:

It seems the whole issue of Facebook banning you started when you decided to "move" your Facebook friends over to your fan page.

First of all, I'd like to say that I decided to talk about the Facebook ban because we need more examples of how far Facebook can go and how little they actually care about its own users. Many people just decide to not talk about their stories, and as a public figure, I felt like it was my responsibility to share my experience with others. This was never about me, this is about defending web users rights. Specially when Facebook does not give you the right to appeal.

And I ask you, Facebook, are you really social media or have you become "anti-social" media? 

Can you tell us why you made this decision and what notices you received from Facebook once you started doing this? What was your reason in moving people from your friends list to your fan page? 

It wasn't exactly moving anyone. If people wanted to keep "following" me on Facebook, they'd have to go to the new fan page. That was an option, and a decision that was made after I talked to my followers. And you don't get notices from Facebook when you remove people from your friends list. It's a right you have to choose who you want to be on your friends list. I used to accept everyone's friend requests, I never wanted to have a fan page for myself, but the friends list was growing and each day I was getting more and more cyber junk. Club promoters tagging me on their flyers (why did Facebook remove the "approve a tag" feature anyway?), invites to join online games, groups and events from around the world. It's actually very common to find people on Facebook who are just looking for more friends so they can promote their apps, fan pages, events, etc. My profile was also getting many virus messages. It was even hacked once. I really didnt want to deal with that anymore. So from 3000 friends, I went to about 600.

On the surface, it looks like Facebook banned you for spamming people you didn't know.  What are your thoughts? 

It wasn't like I was looking for those people, they were contacting me first. All I did was send those "strangers" a message asking them to go to my fan page instead and then ignore their friend request. That's not spam in my opinion, that's replying. Most of those requests were from actual fans just wanting to connect, which is the reason why I just didn't ignore their requests. According to Facebook, what they did was also breaking the rules. And I never removed the "add as a friend" option because I still wanted my real life friends and family to be able to add me. I know many other public figures that have the same problem.

Look, Facebook's privacy policy has more words than the United States constitution (why so long?). I think we were all naive and no one ever really thought that we were breaking any rules. If the people that sent me a random friend request reported my friendly message, then wow, that's like stabbing my back. 

What are your thoughts on Facebook's content rules? Do you think your photos, pictures and drawings cross that line? Do you think this may be an issue on why Facebook banned you? Do you think your content is or should be an issue at all? 

I watched an interview with this Playmate who was banned from Facebook because of her sexy photos and the message she received wasn't the same as mine, so it looks like I was not banned because of my pictures. But if Facebook ever tells me that they did ban me because of some provocative photos and a cartoon (that weren't even full on nudity), then I'll show them the screenshots I posted on my website and ask them why couldn't they take care of the actual pornography on Facebook first?

And what about their provocative "meet local girls now" ads? Recently, many celebrities have complained about Facebook's user rules. Rob Sheridan from NIN, for example, tweeted this week: "Facebook deleted my latest photo work for being 'offensive'. Really, Facebook? Censoring tasteful nudity in artwork? Are we in kindergarten?"

Have you heard back from Facebook after your open letter to them? 

Actually I have, but it wasn't necessarily what I was expecting.

Five days after I got banned, I received an email from Facebook reminding me that I had 2 weeks left to try their Facebook ads for free (http://digitallyblonde.com/2010/08/facebooks-biggest-fail-ever/). I got a similar offer from Facebook a few days before I was banned and decided to give it a try and advertise the Carol Zara fan page for the first time. To get the free credit, I had to enter my credit card info. So I pretty much feel like Facebook tricked me into getting more confidential information before the ban.

Question is, are they keeping that information with them? If so, why? How much does Facebook actually know about its users? They already know what we look like, they know where you work, they know who your friends are, what you like to do, where you live, etc. Are they sharing that information with anyone else? I think Facebook needs to be more clear with its users, specially after the Canadian government went after them for being "too loose with users' personal data."

I definitely don't feel comfortable with my situation and would like to believe that my confidential information, for example, will not become data to attract more investors to the company. I have been online almost every day since I was 12 years old, so I thought I was safe, and look what happened to me. I'm pretty sure my parents would be easy prey online. And considering the fact that there are many seniors on Facebook right now, I advise people to be a little more careful.

Are you looking to be reinstated onto Facebook? 

I was lucky enough to have extra admins taking care of my Digitally Blonde fan page, so that one was saved. Unfortunately the Carol Zara fan page was deleted together with my profile, as I was the only admin. It was the most popular page I had, with close to 4000 members. I'll be watching the activities on the Digitally Blonde fan page, but yeah, just watching. I have a great team who I believe will take really good care of it for me.

Any lessons learned?  Would you do anything different in your strategy had you known your actions would have prompted Facebook to ban you? 

It's hard to say because I wouldn't want to punish my incredible fans because of a few rotten apples, even though that's what Facebook did to me. I was such a big fan of their social network, it was part of my life. I think if I knew that I was doing something wrong, I would have definitely stopped sending my friendly messages to the people who'd friend requested me and just ignore their requests. 

Any other thoughts you'd like to share? 

If anyone believe that they've been treated unfairly by Facebook, feel free to contact me on Twitter (twitter.com/carolzara).

Company:
Facebook
Website:
http://www.facebook.com
Location:
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Facebook's mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. Millions of people use Facebook everyday to keep up with friends, upload an unlimited number of photos, share links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet. more


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Techvibes NewsDesk

Techvibes NewsDesk

Techvibes is Canada's leading technology media property.Founded in 2002, Techvibes covers technology and business news that impacts Canadians. We combine breaking local news with international coverage to deliver a unique balance of insight and information. The Techvibes Newsdesk covers a broad beat and publishes general news stories. If you have a story you would like covered, email... more



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