Branch Out May Cause Me to Delete My “Friends”

My Facebook Profile Blocked Out

Launched in July 2010, Branch Out, is a Facebook application that could be a game-changer for LinkedIn (Personally, I hope not.).  Today, I’ve seen several of my 500+ Facebook Friends install the application into their profiles and that concerns me.

If you’ve been paying attention to my writings on social media through this blog, you will notice that I have written on the subject of privacy A LOT.  I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook in that the main reason I hold onto my profile is to continue to connect with my family & friends, more so than for professional purposes.  Because of Branch Out, I might lose some of those folks and that saddens me.

While I understand the concept behind the application and to some extent I agree that it has the potential to be extremely powerful, the one thing the designers forgot is that for many of the 500 million+ users on the medium, not ALL of them use their profiles for a professional purpose.  I am one of those people.

I use Facebook for both personal and professional reasons but does that mean I want my profile picture on Facebook to be the same one in the Branch Out application?  No.  Does that mean I want to update ALL of my professional information under my Facebook Profile Info tab to include every place I have worked or currently work?  No.  Not to mention, I currently work as an Independent Consultant under the premise of  “Lisa Sullivan PR” but to be honest, I’m not a full-fledged business, I don’t plan to be, and nor do I plan to create a Facebook Page for it either.  I’m happy using my WordPress site for anything related to whatever independent consulting I do.

Branch Out is assuming that every person on Facebook wants to be connected professionally.  That is not the case…at least it’s not with me.  Now, I haven’t seen evidence that those that have opted into the application can also control which Friends on their Friends list that don’t mind being listed, nor have I seen a Facebook privacy button that indicates that I can opt out of my information being listed.

Right now, from what I can gather, when an individual grants permission for Branch Out to access their profile information one of their profile components that will be gathered is their Friends list with absolutely no way for a Friend to opt out.  That is unacceptable to me…and grounds for me to terminate that “friendship”.  Not limit access, but terminate…and that saddens me because I would prefer not to have to do that.  However, currently, I’m left with no choice.

I hope the folks at Branch Out take notice of this privacy flaw.

For those of us that use Facebook mainly for personal use and have locked down our profiles as tight as can be, the idea that our profile image will be added to someone’s professional network is not appropriate.  That’s not to say that I put up ANY inappropriate images of myself on Facebook.  Rather, perhaps I’d like to keep the picture of me and my pooch as my profile shot.  I don’t consider that to be a professional picture and if the application is meant to link professionals, well, you see my point?

I’d like to thank John Zappe for bringing the privacy issues to the forefront of the folks at Branch Out in his article as well as for his follow up since his discussion with Rick Marini, Founder of Branch Out after the fact.  John’s articles validated my reason for this post.

Here’s a You Tube video that explains Branch Out in a nutshell:

What do you think?  About Branch Out?  About deleting Friends on Facebook because of this issue?  Would love to hear your thoughts.

UPDATE: I have posted an updated review of Branch Out since this posting and you might be surprised as to what I have to say. Please take a look.

(Please note: all comments are moderated & subjected to approval.)

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Comments
26 Responses to “Branch Out May Cause Me to Delete My “Friends””
  1. Hi there, i read your blog occasionally and i own a similar one and i was just curious if you get a lot
    of spam responses? If so how do you prevent it, any plugin or anything you
    can suggest? I get so much lately it’s driving me mad so any assistance is very much appreciated.

    • I do get some SPAM but not enough to add an additional plug-in here. However, if you’re self-hosting WordPress via WordPress.org, I recommend Akismet. It does a GREAT job with eliminating SPAM.

  2. a message to ALL of my FaceBook friends…

    BRANCHOUT – I will not be using this application and support the opinion in this article Posted by Lisa A. Sullivan on January 11, 2011

  3. dan says:

    Personally for me fb is not anything but personal so opting out of branch out was a no brainer for me now i just need to limit my posts to a few friends that use this app and i am retaining my privacy.

  4. Debra says:

    Lisa – I just learned of your year-old blog entry above as I searched for info on the privacy issues surrounding BranchOut. Thank you for sharing. Has the app changed for the better since January 2011? Did pleas to Mr.Marini bear fruit, or is this still as disruptive of privacy as it was a year ago? If you’ve gained any additional insights, I would love to read a sequel!

  5. Katie says:

    I need some more explanation in laymans terms if you could email me. I’m still not fully understanding. Are you saying people on branch out will have some of my information or my picture listed and anyone can view it?

    • Hi Katie. Probably the easiest way to answer this is to share what Branch Out’s own Privacy Center (via http://branchout.com/about/privacy) has to say about what information is shared with the networks of your friends that have opted in to using the service –

      “BranchOut only shows your name, profile picture, work history, and education and other professional information you choose to share on BranchOut. Our use of limited information keeps your private life on Facebook and your professional profile on BranchOut. This means that your status updates, photo albums, and other personal information are not visible on BranchOut to your contacts, including employers, recruiters and your professional contacts.”

      Simply stated, if your friends have opted in to using it, the permission with which to do so is grab the same public information your friend’s friends share and add it to your friend’s Branch Out profile. By default, your FB image is public. There’s no way of getting around that.

      I’ll have more in a post I’m publishing later this week. Check back!

  6. I started the process with suspicion as I am absolutely, fanatically anti-application. Then I got to the permissions page and backed out. The first two provisions, access to the data I make public and my basic profile information are under my control. The third permission, “Access Information People Share With Me”, is down right scary. It is another end run around Facebook’s flexible, Swiss cheese-like and ever changing privacy policy.

    Combine this with the recent announcement that Facebook is going to start mining personal data even harder and apps get even scarier than they were. As it is privacy in many cases is in the hands of “Friends” that opt into applications. Since I don’t know who has what application, I am starting to once again scrub my Facebook of personally identifiable information. Unfortunately it appears that deeper levels of privacy are fair game for Facebook and the app developers they incubate.

    • I have an update post coming very soon that might be somewhat surprising to some. I’m still not using the apps and I continue to block them but…well…I’ll let you read the post when it’s published to see where the “but” goes.

      Thank you for reading and commenting!

  7. Lisa, ever since I entered the Facebook world, I have been very, very hesitant to use any application. All it took was having to agree to allow the app access to all my profile information, and I would generally stop before I started. Often, as with Branch Out, there is very little explanation as to what the app is, much less why the unknown people behind it need to have all that access.
    I don’t like this, and I also am not wild about so many social networking sites popping up, that seem to replicate the ones I already use, like FB & Linked-In, etc. That is why I’m signed up, but thus far inactive on Google +, I really have no desire to start all over again, or attempt to transfer nearly 3,000 “friends” to a new platform (unless it’s my personal website).

    On some level, this reminds me of a time when everyone I knew would work a MLM business, then jump to each new one that came down that pike, thinking the new one was the winning plan. Life is crowded enough, without the need to jump from one new network to the next, in search of the perfect one, so I think I’ll take a pass on Branch Out.

  8. Veronica Cabrera says:When I signed up for Branch Out Account, I did not know exactly what it was. But when I learned more about it, I did not feek the need for it. I do not need to connect to professional organizations, look for a job. I am through with all that. I only need facebook to connect with close friends and relatives. I am trying to cancel this account but I am unable to. I need help to do this.

    • Veronica…most people don’t know what the application is…or for that matter MANY applications they install on the platform. Often, users will add an app simply because someone else has and it “looks like a good idea”. So, don’t feel bad that you installed something you didn’t understand. You are NOT the only one to do that. :)

      As for assisting with removing it, you should be able to go to your “Account Settings” and then
      “Apps” and then find it on the list of those that you have allowed access to your Facebook profile. From there, remove it by clicking on the “X” to the far right and follow the prompts. If this does not work, you might need to contact Facebook directly.

      Good luck and thanks for your comment!

  9. artdes says:

    A friend sent me an invitation to BranchOut so I accepted and began to set it up. BUT, once I got to the page where it asked me for my LinkedIn password, I got right out of there. I don’t know who BranchOut really is, having never heard of them before, but would urge everyone to refuse to give out any of your passwords. Once they have that, they have the power to alter your LinkedIn profile! Has anyone experienced a problem with this?

    • Art…I haven’t heard of that issue as yet. First time. BUT, I don’t find it all that surprising either just because of the blatant connection Facebook/Branch Out seems to have with no regards to privacy control. I’ll keep an eye out for others who complain about that issue as well. Hmm. That bothers me too, come to think of it.

      Thanks for posting your comment…and for reading!

  10. Brooke Dixon says:

    Hi Lisa,
    I read your comment on Mashable and started to look around your site … love it.
    I 100% agree with your thinking here. Without trying to seem like I am spamming, this is exactly why my wife & I are building the site hour.ly. Funny enough, we have taken the exact opposite approach in that we felt that mixing social with job seeking was a HUGE issue as not everyone wants to let their friends and family know that they are looking for work much less the type of work. While I’d love nothing more than to say we have millions of users thanks to jumping on Facebook’s social graph, the reality is that the service is better suited to our users this way … call me old fashioned :)

    We’re getting ready to relaunch w/ a new set of features and improved usability but wanted to introduce myself as we seem to be very much on the same page here.

    Thanks!
    Brooke

    • Brooke…first, thank you for reading and for taking the time to thoughtfully comment. That’s the difference between spam and making a real connection. For that, please keep me posted on hour.ly. My interest is peaked simply because you were so kind. Can’t say I’ll endorse or use just yet but I’m definitely willing to look at it in more depth and provide my own thoughtful analysis.

      Second…I agree with regards to your reasons why many would shy away from mixing personal with professional so blatantly as the Facebook/Branch Out connection seems to do. I wonder if Google+ will alleviate that problem somewhat. Have you been on there yet? I am “Plus-ing” and I have to admit, with the exception of the need for all profiles to be public, so far I’m liking the platform, though I have yet to really figure out how I’m going to use it.

      In any event, thank you for taking into consideration those of us that just wish to control how we connect whether personally or professionally.

      Look forward to hearing more about hour.ly.

  11. Martijn Vos says:

    I agree. Noticed several coworkers started using BranchOut. Nothing wrong with that, of course. But the message said they said something explicitly about me, or wrote something on my wall. So wanted to check what that was, and all I found was a request to sign up with BranchOut. Looking around a bit more, I discovered that my wall contained only messages by me, one public message from a friend that was aimed specifically at me, and these BranchOut messages from friends that signed up, which I should not have anything to do with.

    Looks like a serious hole in facebook’s privacy (who are we kidding? facebook has no privacy), as well as a really vile attempt by BranchOut to hijack your social network and harass your friends.

    I would probably have loved to use BranchOut otherwise, but now I will refuse. They do not own my friends, should not automatically harass them.

    • Martijn…thank you for you reading and your comments. Found myself nodding in agreement many times. It’s nice to know, yet again, that I have a kindred spirit on this issue.

      Have a GREAT week!

  12. Kevin says:

    Amen, couldn’t agree more. It’s a problem when these apps trial to get their apps to be social and it just becomes annoying instead. Add me to the ban list

    • lasullivan says:

      I “like” this response. :) Thanks, Kevin! Nice to know I’m not the only one who sees the major flaw here.

      • Katie says:

        I’ve read all comments, and I don’t think it’s a good idea. Why do I want a possible employer knowing all my
        Personal info? Seeing what I do outside of work.

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