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Facebook spins a wider web -- including on this site

Facebook launched a set of initiatives that will expand its reach across and into numerous third-party sites, The Post's included.

You can see one result of this on our home page and other pages here, the "Network News" box. On my computer, its "Friends' Activity" heading shows that fellow Posties Sara Goo and Nancy Trejos, among others, shared links to recent Post stories on Facebook, after which a link I posted to the editor's note explaining this feature appeared in that box almost instantly. Meanwhile, the box's "Most Popular" listing (pictured below) revealed that 3,887 people pointed to today's obituary for civil-rights leader Dorothy I. Height.


In another browser, in which I'm not logged into Facebook, The Post's home page doesn't show what stories friends like and lists only the most popular stories overall.

Want to regulate your visibility through this feature? A notice on the main Network News page breezily says, "You can change what information you share on Network News by changing your privacy settings on Facebook." But it doesn't identify which corner of the social network's complicated settings you should check.

(As far as I can tell, you'd want to make sure "Posts by Me" are visible to "Only Friends" to stop strangers from seeing your Facebook mug shot on our site -- and to avoid broadcasting your data to random people on Facebook itself. If you don't want even Facebook friends to see what Post stories you liked on Facebook, you shouldn't share them in the first place -- which should be obvious but may not be.)

The Post's vice president and general manager for digital operations, Goli Sheikholeslami, said that the company -- remember, chairman and chief executive Donald E. Graham is on Facebook's board of directors -- began work on this feature in December. She said that while "people not comfortable with this kind of activity will be able to manage that and not make their information public," she expected that "most people will take advantage of it."

The Palo Alto, Calif., social network's other announcements at a developers' conference today -- see liveblogs from Mashable and TechCrunch for more details -- add other ways for third-party sites to link back to Facebook.

For instance, at the movie database, you can click a "Like" button to praise a flick on Facebook, below which a running total reports how many Facebookers liked the movie (86 gave a thumbs-up to "Avatar," just four to "Office Space").

(Update, 3:57 p.m.: Post stories feature a similar "Like" button; when I clicked the one below this post, my Facebook profile promptly added a notice saying as much.)

And Facebook is formally launching its new Platform initiative -- the experiment in sharing some Facebook user data with third-party sites without your advance permission that I critiqued here last month and in my column a few weeks ago.

(If you're curious: No, nobody told me about The Post's upcoming Facebook integration before I wrote that story; no, I didn't get any funny looks from management types after that column ran; yes, our public-relations staff was anxious to get me to write about today's news.)

Facebook's launching this with just three sites: Microsoft's invitation-only Docs, a Web version of its upcoming Office 2010 suite; the Web-radio hub Pandora; and the business-listings site Yelp. But I'm a little fuzzy on how that's supposed to work; Pandora didn't welcome me with friends' music picks and Yelp doesn't point me to Facebook pals' latest write-ups (unless, somehow, none of my Facebook acquaintances use Yelp). I'll have to check back at those sites later today.

(Update, 3:57 p.m.: A Q&A at Pandora says its Facebook integration is optional and somewhat hidden unless you use the same e-mail address for both sites; I suspect the same reason explains the absence of my Facebook presence at Yelp, but that site's explanation doesn't say definitely.)

On a blog post, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg tries to put all these moves in context:

Today ... we are making it so all websites can work together to build a more comprehensive map of connections and create better, more social experiences for everyone.

It's not going too far to say that Facebook ultimately wants to build a layer of identity and authentication on top of the entire Web. That may be helpful in some cases; for instance, I'd like to know which Yelp reviews come from the people I know and trust at Facebook. But I don't need it at every site, and you probably don't either. So where do you draw that line?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  April 21, 2010; 3:36 PM ET
Categories:  Social media , The business we have chosen  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: ACTA trade deal no longer secret; draft released
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Facebook ultimately wants to build a layer of identity and authentication on top of the entire Web.

Which is why the only time I'm logged in to Facebook is when I'm on Facebook. Log On, read, maybe post a couple comments, log off.

Posted by: wiredog | April 21, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Your "Posts By Me" link [§ion=profile] probably was actually used by a couple of people to change their privacy settings, because now the link to those settings has changed to§ion=profile_display

Posted by: MaxH | April 21, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: MaxH | April 21, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Is there a way to get rid of the box? It is incredibly distracting and one can't see the weather/traffic links as easy.

Frankly, it is a horrible idea and I hate that I have to go back and make sure all my privacy things haven't been changed and I am still not convinced it won't appear elsewhere.

Posted by: hereandnow1 | April 21, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

I kinda just don't get the whole Facebook thing. I do not feel my activities, opinions,ideas are so important that I need to share them with the world...nor am I interested in other's. I will continue to let the social networking sites pass me by.

Posted by: tbva | April 21, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

I don't think I'd want to see this on online dating sites.

Posted by: rakeshlobster | April 21, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Orwell never saw this coming: Big Brother is not created from the top down, but from the bottom up.

Even the notorious East Germans never dreamed of building as pervasive a surveillance system as Google/Facebook/Experian/Verizon et al have implemented. And we all keep signing up for it.

Posted by: 12008N1 | April 21, 2010 5:46 PM | Report abuse

I hate it. I hate the thought of a website *automatically* knowing that I have been on other sites. I may not necessarily want my boss finding out (on facebook) that I am like jobs on

And why mandate the sharing of personal information like list of friends, city, etc?

Posted by: tundey | April 21, 2010 10:14 PM | Report abuse

Um, this may not be the best place to ask, but I don't know where else to ask and it is kind of related. For several months I have been getting these pop-ups from the Post in the lower right hand corner of my screen containing obtuse news "bulletins" -- little 2 x 3 inch boxes. I forget what the Post calls them. There is a selection to "opt out" and I click it over and over and over again, but I keep getting these pop ups. I wish they would stop.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | April 21, 2010 10:54 PM | Report abuse

I'm already on the internet, why do I need facebook? Delete your cookies and history regularly, and don't forget those hidden flash cookies.

Posted by: Charles27 | April 22, 2010 2:13 AM | Report abuse

This Facebook things shows up on multiple post sites. It is slow loading. I do not appreciate it nor do I appreciate the several step process to get rid of it. In my view, this cheapens the Post brand considerably. Very poor decision by someone.

Posted by: wovose | April 22, 2010 8:17 AM | Report abuse

This is a terrible, terrible idea. I read at work and now my browser history is going to show hundreds of pings a day to Facebook. You are going to get people fired over this widget. I hope it is worth it.

I agree with other comments that it looks cheap and trashy. Have you seen Gene Weingarten's Facebook icon? It's not pretty.

There needs to be a way for users to turn it off permanently.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 22, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

I draw the line at something being enabled without my permission (which this sharing was) and being a step backwards in usability and value (which this also was).

This Facebook integration doesn't make the news clearer, it doesn't make your stories better, it doesn't make anything about the Post better, and the sharing between the Post and Facebook was enabled without my consent. Yes, I know I can turn it off, but the initial shock of "how the %&#@ did the Post get this info?!" is not something the Post should want their users experiencing.

The new system just obscures useful information for no real value. Please turn it off.

Posted by: neversaylie | April 22, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse

I don't like it and I'm not sure it works anyway. "My Friends" that are listed in the box are a bunch of people that I never heard of (I have only a few Facebook friends). I really don't like the fact that I have to "opt out" - this should be only an opt in feature.

I went ahead and changed my privacy settings but who knows what else Facebook/Washington Post have decided to share with the rest of the world (without asking me!).

Posted by: KS100H | April 22, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

I don't Facebook, I don't tweet, I don't Myspace, I have no friends (except for a few imaginary ones. Hi, yellowjkt!)

This widget is a waste of browser real-estate, bandwidth, and my eyeballs. Please tell us how we can turn this thing OFF! or filter it out.


Posted by: DLDx | April 22, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Maybe we should start a Facebook group to get rid of this thing. "Get the Facebook Widget off the Washington Post". Let's see how long it takes to get 100,000 supporters. That seems a popular Facebook thing to do.

Posted by: wovose | April 22, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

You're usually at the forefront in highlighting Facebook privacy issues. Please tell your superiors that this was a boneheaded move. Especially the "if you want to opt-out, we're working on it." Wait until you figure it out before releasing. This is crazy. I hate Facebook, but it is a professional requirement. This makes it even worse.

Posted by: BrentwoodGuy | April 22, 2010 9:27 PM | Report abuse

I hate the whole thing. When I want to log into Facebook, I will log into Facebook. When I want to read the Post, I don't want obnoxious FB notices popping up. GET RID OF IT!!

Posted by: BobbQ3 | April 22, 2010 9:32 PM | Report abuse

Could someone who has successfully opted out of this please post directions for doing so?

the privacy settings do nothing to affect the content of the box.

Sure, I can log out of Facebook, but that still leaves the box on the Post screen.

What a stupid stupid move on the Post's part. I expect stupidity from Facebook, but not from the Post.

Posted by: jweissmn | April 22, 2010 11:25 PM | Report abuse

This is an unbelievably awful idea, espeially as there is no way to opt out - the privacy settings do not affect this at all. the only way to avoid it is to log out of FB every time you leave.

Mighty inconvenient.

Let's hope this overreaching by FB and the Post backfires.

Posted by: jweissmn | April 22, 2010 11:28 PM | Report abuse

I'm with TBVA on this one. Even though I'm an I.T. admin and certainly capable of configuring Facebook or any other social networking site I never have because I just don't get it.

Frankly, I don't care what you're doing, what mood you're in, or what you thought of a movie.

I don't have a need in my ego/id for broadcasting my whereabouts, likes, dislikes, or thoughts.

I think the whole phenomenon is creepy and wierd.

Posted by: lquarton | April 23, 2010 12:54 AM | Report abuse

"I read at work and now my browser is going to show hundreds of pings a day to Facebook. "

Yeah, I'm a bit concerned about this aspect too.

Posted by: davezatz | April 23, 2010 6:34 AM | Report abuse

Indeed, my employer blocks access to Facebook and puts up a nastygram about attempted access to an inappropriate site instead.

I would like to configure something like AdBlock (which I had previously disabled for only due to past technical glitches with the Post website) to preemptively block Facebook access attempts. Alternatively, I would like to configure to show me different ads other than facebook.

Any ideas as to how I might achieve either of these goals? I use Firefox on Windows.

Posted by: jaepstein63 | April 23, 2010 9:04 AM | Report abuse

@neversaylie - This about says it all: The Post's "chairman and chief executive Donald E. Graham is on Facebook's board of directors."

I'm not sure we have to worry about hits to Facebook showing up in our browser logs. The data appears to be coming from washingtonpost servers. What a waste of CPU cycles all around.


Posted by: DLDx | April 23, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Using adblock to kill made the module go away.

Posted by: astronomer | April 23, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

To jaepstein63, who would like to "to preemptively block Facebook access attempts."

You can do this if your browser is Firefox (not IE), with an add-on called NoScript. With it you can disallow Facebook (and other) scripts. It's an amazingly helpful tool but it is a bit of extra work. I generally allow all root pages, such as, and then allow secondary ones on a case-by-case basis.

Apart from answering this question, I'd like to join other commenters in saying that the Facebook/Network News idea is a spectacularly awful idea. I was struck by poster 12008N1's statement about Big Brother's arrival from the "bottom up." Most perspicacious.

Is this trend truly about openness, or does it align with the general "dumbing-down" of society? There is a difference between privacy and secrecy, although most people seem not to realize it, or to value even the smallest amount of personal privacy.

Posted by: 5232news | April 24, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

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