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Facebook Says Sorry for 'Year in Review'
By: Jessica Cherok
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For forcing some people to relive their most tragic memories of 2014, Facebook has apologized.

Perhaps the most annoying feature of Facebook’s December, "The Year in Review" has been nothing but in your face. Of course, this has to be annoying for users who did not have a good 2014.

For web designer Eric Meyer, the Year in Review was particularly heartbreaking. Meyer’s six-year-old daughter passed away in 2014 after a long illness. Meyer wrote about Facebook’s Year in Review bringing up painful memories in a blog post titled “Inadvertent Algorithmic Cruelty.”
 
“Algorithms are essentially thoughtless. They model certain decision flows, but once you run them, no more thought occurs. To call a person “thoughtless” is usually considered a slight, or an outright insult; and yet, we unleash so many literally thoughtless processes on our users, on our lives, on ourselves.

Where the human aspect fell short, at least with Facebook, was in not providing a way to opt out. The Year in Review ad keeps coming up in my feed, rotating through different fun-and-fabulous backgrounds, as if celebrating a death, and there is no obvious way to stop it. Yes, there’s the drop-down that lets me hide it, but knowing that is practically insider knowledge. How many people don’t know about it? Way more than you think.”

Facebook’s product manager later personally apologized to Meyer.

Clearly, Facebook’s Year in Review was not nearly so traumatic for all users. Still, many users felt the review was entirely too prominent in their feeds. The overkill caused many to avoid making the review altogether. One person on Twitter compared Facebook’s Year in Review to a “braggy Christmas letter your mom’s friend sends out every year.”

   

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About the Author
Jessica Cherok is an advocate for online privacy, campaigning for ethical data practices and the protection of personal privacy.
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