KDE users have gotten a rather unpleasant surprise from Facebook: Not only is the site blocking KDE apps like Gwenview from uploading, the social media giant has also taken down photos uploaded with the KDE plugins. Yet another reason that users might think twice before depending on Facebook for photo storage.
I stumbled on this via, of course, Facebook. A friend of mine had posted that the "kipi" (KDE Plug-Ins) that handles uploading to Facebook had been banned. That's annoying, but not a major issue — but the real issue is that the site has also apparently zapped photos already uploaded using KDE applications that depend on the plugin. I would point you to the bug, but apparently bugs.kde.org is unaccustomed to the amount of interest that the bug is receiving. (Maybe it's up by the time you read this, though.)
Thinking it might be a single user glitch or limited to one area, I decided to fire up Gwenview and try to upload a picture. No dice — I got the "Facebook Call Failed: Invalid API key" error. I don't typically use Gwenview to upload photos, so I can't see of my photos missing, but I'll take my friend's word for it.
It's popular for people to talk about hating Facebook or, for a smaller group, not using Facebook. I'm not going to go there — I don't particularly trust Facebook, but I do use the site and (so far) find that the positives outweigh the negatives. But this is an object lesson in why users should never depend on Facebook or assume that their data stored on the site will be there five minutes from now. (You also should not assume that anything stored on Facebook is private, but that's another conversation for another time.)
While I use Facebook and other sites, I always keep local copies of photos or anything else that I share. What's a shame is that you have to assume that the conversations that accompany photos, etc., are ephemeral. Maybe they'll be there in six months, maybe they'll be gone in sixty seconds.
Whether Facebook will be able to revert the photos, or why the company mistakenly banned an innocent FOSS application from uploads and storage is almost beside the point. It's nothing new, and almost certainly won't be the last time that the site mistakenly blocks a legitimate app or fumbles user data.
This is yet another argument for distributed, free software social media tools like GNU MediaGoblin. Facebook's mission is not to carefully tend to its users data. Facebook's users aren't even the company's customers — it's all about the advertisers and companies it can sell marketing data to. Your comments, photos, profile, and time spent on Facebook's site are the company's product not its business.
So I won't tell people "don't use Facebook" because that ship has already sailed unless the company commits a particularly heinous breach of user trust, or something more popular eclipses it. But I will say this: Use Facebook like you use any shared space. You never know who might be observing, and anything you leave behind might be gone five seconds after you turn your back.
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Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier is a freelance writer and editor with more than 10 years covering IT. Formerly the openSUSE Community Manager for Novell, Brockmeier is a longtime free and open source software advocate. He has written for many publications, including Linux Magazine, Sys Admin, Linux Pro Magazine, IBM developerWorks, Linux.com, CIO.com, Linux Weekly News, ZDNet, and many others.