Facebook and its sister network Instagram known as the world’s largest social network is now in hot water again. This time it isn’t about a class action lawsuit over photo rights and marketing information. It has become much more serious than that for many users. Facebook and Instagram are now asking users to provide scanned government issued photo identification in order to obtain access to their accounts with the majority of account holders residing in the United States. While the account is disabled the user’s profile is still visible by friends and family, however, access is completely denied to the alleged. In this methodology Facebook and Instagram keeps access to a user’s photos and their last status updated but the user is denied access completely to modifying or logging into the account until rigorous identification documents are verified by the social networking giant.
In a terms of service change noted on Jan. 19, 2013 Instagram users are also experiencing simultaneous lockouts due to this implementation that Facebook began on a pilot basis in 2012. Some users are now reporting dual lockouts from both sites at the same time. Reports date back on the internet as far as 2010 with users being denied access to suspected phishing and spam accounts without providing a government issued photo identification. However, user targeting has now expanded on a mass scale since Jan. 22, 2013 and Facebook has left a vague comment on what will trigger a user’s account from being locked out.
The lockouts are being reported as a “suspicion” of a terms of service violation by Facebook, but Facebook will not elaborate further in the details they provided to Talking Points Memo what initiates the lockouts or the suspicion. Facebook stated to the news site, “This is just a general practice for both Facebook and Instagram to request photo IDs for verification purposes depending on what type of violation may have occurred,” a spokesperson for Facebook told Talking Points Memo. “Unfortunately, I can’t share more with you beyond that as we don’t go into details beyond that.” If you read through Facebook’s terms of service any one of the following can result in a violation; not having you legal name on your account, not using your correct date of birth, not using your own photos, adding friends you do not know in real life, and the list continues.
Facebook is now cracking down further on suspected violators with one user reporting they were the target with only 200 friends to The Examiner. A division of ABC News known as News Channel 9 in Syracuse, NY was flooded with questions regarding the identity requirement and posted in response a news article stating the requests are not a scam; they are real. According to News Channel 9, “After the emails went out, the questions came quickly from users: was it a scam, and why do Instagram and Facebook need that information? Syracuse University’s iSchool says its likely part of a push from the sites to make sure people are using their real names on Facebook and that users on both sites are older than 13.”
Many users were crying out to CNET with rage and confusion. According to CNet the required government issued identification must be uploaded by Feb. 1, 2013. Forums like Yahoo! Answers are also seeing a rise in questions with users seeking the truth behind the lockouts, which are now being reported on multiple computer news sites like; PC Magazine and Tech Radar to name a few. The requests are factual requests by Facebook and Instagram and are not a phishing scheme. Government identification also might be rejected if Facebook or Instagram sees fit. Some users are also being sent an e-mail in regards to this matter according to The Examiner stating their identification was not accepted forcing users to upload even more personal information to the social networking giant. The e-mail states; “We’re sorry, but we can’t verify your claim based on the ID you provided. Please reply to this email with a different government-issued photo ID. This ID must include your full name and date of birth. If any of this information is located on the back of the document, be sure to include an image of this as well.”
These requests are leaving users with a bad taste in their mouths. Users across Facebook and other social networking sites like Twitter have been spreading the news with some websites showing a total of over 4,000 shares and likes for the news article about the lockouts on Mashable. Forum users are complaining of what is to come with users reporting to The Daily Mail UK “Some users who have been targeted said they were later told by Facebook that it had made a mistake or have been left waiting days without access to their account or response to their emails.”
TV entertainment producer Rox Hart in Seattle, WA with a cooking show airing on cable television decided not to use his real name when joining Facebook. In his interview he provided he has decided to quit Facebook all together the day the site asks for identification. Shortened and stylized user names are not just the concern for some users. Some users have legitimate personal security risks to using personally identifiable information on the internet due to stalkers, identity theft, individuals in Safe at Home programs by the Secretary of State, and those who have been in abusive relationships.
Users have begun the process of backing up their extensive picture files, contact information of friends and family, and other personal sentiments from the website. Facebook is heavily integrated into multiple forums and websites around the web. Not only is Facebook integration crucial but friend and family bonds are also connected through the site, “friends, family, whatever, lost cousins and uncles I don’t know if I will ever see them again. Facebook is really integrated into people’s lives. Facebook is using that power to insure people will still use their site despite having to give out their driver’s licenses. I’m on my way out,” said Rox Hart. Facebook might find their new identity requirements as a way to shed users from the one billion strong social network and Instagram. They might find themselves a little lonelier in the near future if users rebel with refusals to comply with the new government identification requirements.