Facebook Home Has Issues, But Privacy Isn’t One Of Them

Facebook Home is not a privacy problem. Consider this: If I were to give a set of house keys to my next-door neighbour, and find that he’s decided to go inside and take a peek around. Is this a privacy problem? Right, you’d probably say “Why the hell did you give a copy of your house keys to him?”. While, it is clear that you wouldn’t ask for the neighbour to peek in; with all that power to do so, why wouldn’t he? Now, we have Facebook Home, with the ability to replace the launcher on Android, it will have all the keys to your device. If you give that to Facebook, privacy isn’t your problem. But, Facebook Home appears to have other very concerning things you should think about. I take a look at this very interesting development from Facebook.

If you’ve been reading about it; Facebook Home is a new application on the Android operating system that effectively replaces the shell (or launcher) of your phone. If you’ve purchased the only phone preinstalled with the software, HTC First, you won’t have to download it. All others will get it from the Play Store (or leaked online). Facebook Home may be like having your parents take you to a friend’s house party. Your experience may not be different with them around, but having their watchful eyes on your activities might feel more than uneasy. Oh, and your friends will think you’re a dork. You’ll long for freedom. And, you may actually have it, but you won’t feel like you do.

While I have seen the articles that say this an improvement on Facebook, one of the bigger problems I see is the loss of features. Not even just the loss of features either; losing control of features too. Facebook is in the social network business and not in the mobile operating system business. Based on some recent screenshots and articles, it looks like you’ll lose these kinds of features if Facebook Home is your launcher:

1.  Quick access to search
2.  Quick access to all apps drawer
3.  Widgets
4. Icon Folders

Other possible (but not confirmed) losses that may come by way of Facebook Home include quick access to non-Facebook/SMS messaging apps, enhanced locking security features, and I can even see a case where sideloaded apps are not exposed in the full app drawer (and thus, not launchable at all). I can also see cases where applications that interact with the stock Android launcher, end up broken. This is also notwithstanding possible updates to Android that might break with Facebook Home in the future. It makes you wonder if Facebook would have been smarter to fork Android.

And, they could have forked Android, but they wouldn’t. Why? Because they want this on the maximum number of devices, which would be impossible if an entire operating system reinstall was required. There are some that say an actual, full operating system from Facebook is on the horizon; that Facebook Home is just the opening salvo.

The long term goal does seem to be advertising for Facebook. Facebook’s turn to an advertisement from a mostly social service has more than changed its usefulness. The site is a cesspool of viral-like farms, ads that are misleading and apps that are less than trustworthy. How are you to deal with seeing a blown-up picture of a (photoshopped) bruised-face child on your phone sitting in the cover feed? Facebook now shows ads and other “suggested” stories above the fold before any of my friend’s posts and has rearranged everything related to EdgeRank. In short, content on Facebook that isn’t directly from your friends is a mess Facebook, and you’ll be forced to see this when it comes right to your phone’s launcher.

The Facebook Home application will be available on the newly unveiled HTC First smartphone and also available from the Google Play Store starting April 12th.