Facebook requires that all of its users register for the site using their real name and birthday. While this isn’t strictly enforced, the site has asked users it has suspected of lying before to send a copy of their government-issued identification. However, in the wake of the NSA online spying scandal, their latest (accidental) request for users’ personal information was met harshly.
“Earlier this evening, we showed an account verification message to a very small portion of our users unnecessarily,” Facebook said in a statement to Ars Technica on Tuesday. “We promptly removed the messages when we discovered the error. We’re sorry for any inconvenience we may have caused.”
To its credit, Facebook asks users to obscure all personally identifying information besides their picture, birth date and name when they send in a copy of their ID. They also say that they promptly delete the file from their servers once they’ve seen it. However, Facebook has shown in the past that it’s not exactly in a rush to get rid of user’s data that they have themselves chosen to delete.
Though the issues of the PRISM spying scandal and the request for government ID are not related, the fact that they both deal with the government is enough to make people trust the site even less. Though Facebook sent out a similar request in January that caused very few waves, it’s clear now that Facebook has a public perception problem, particularly when it comes to its relationship with the government.