Facebook Selling Inbox Access—Does It Really Matter

facebook selling inbox access for $1Always on the search for a new revenue stream (cue sarcasm), Facebook is now testing a new system that would give users (and not necessarily your friends) the ability to send you a Facebook message for $1. Super!

Right now, anyone can send you a Facebook message for free (provided you’ve allowed that option in your privacy settings). Messages from people who aren’t your Facebook friends typically wind up in your “Other” messages folder. And by the way, if you’ve not checked your “Other” messages folder lately and want a good chuckle, do. There are a bunch of losers in mine who, apparently, think I’m hot and potentially interested in their affections.

With this new Facebook messaging system, people can pay to get messages to other Facebook users—not unlike the concept behind promoted posts, which give Facebook users the ability to pay to get their status updates seen by a larger audience. As Facebook puts it: “Someone you’re not connected to on Facebook may pay to ensure their message is routed to your inbox instead of your Other folder,” regardless of which filtering option you use for your Facebook messages.

This new functionality is not at all unlike LinkedIn’s InMail system, so there’s a part of me that’s not sure what all the fuss is about. Other than the fact that LinkedIn is all about business and business development, so the ability to pay for the ability to connect with someone makes sense there. But most folks using Facebook are more interested in posting pics of the food they’re eating (guilty) and their kids (also guilty) and fooling around with friends (yup, guilty of that, too) than receiving unsolicited messages (business or otherwise) from creeps selling stuff or wanting to connect with you. At least that’s my guess.

Our friends at Business Insider are a lot less skeptical about this new feature than many:  “Some people will think this is Facebook trying to find a new way to make money. We do not. We doubt it’s going to generate much, if any, revenue. The only dubious, conspiratorial business reason we can see for this is that Facebook would presumably get more users to punch in their credit card numbers, which could be helpful down the road.”

To some extent, we agree. Spammers aren’t known for their interest in spending a bunch of dough to reach you, they’d much rather get to you through unscrupulous methods that are free. But anyone with a dollar to spend could, in theory (provided they roll this test out sitewide) send you an email, guaranteed to land in your inbox, and know when you’ve read it.

This tactic could, however, be stupendous for bill collectors, who will typically stop at nothing to get your attention. Hmmmm. Talk about a quick way to really piss people off and violate their privacy, all at the same time.

That being said, I can also see why many, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, are upset about this. Privacy is a big deal. And being able to protect your Facebook profile from just anyone having access is, well, also a big deal.

We’re going to do what we usually do, which is to try and avoid histrionics and adopt a wait and see attitude. One thing’s for sure, time will, most definitely, tell when it comes to a feature like this. We’re also interested in Facebook’s (and other social networking sites’) continual evolution to more and more paid features. Doesn’t it only make sense?

What are your thoughts on the news? Is this a huge breach of privacy or not all that big of a deal? We’d love to hear what you think.

Image by Rich B-S via Creative Commons

  • http://twitter.com/whatsjassaying Jasmin Rae

    Wow, Shelly. This is rather disturbing if you ask me. I think many of us will be joining the bandwagon of non-supporters. A lot of these new social media efforts are becoming a destruction of privacy and soon we will have no privacy left to hang on to.

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  • Ned Hamson

    Give me 25 cents of it and I will take the time to delete it – grin

  • halffiction

    LinkedIn set the ground rules from day 1. Facebook took something that was once free and removed it, then decided to charge for it.

  • http://freetraffictip.com Tinu

    There used to be no separation between the boxes. If someone is willing to pay $1 to get into my box … Well, the way I see it they still can’t force me to open it. I’m all go Facebook instituting this for stalkers too.

  • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

    Drat, and I thought I was special with all those swarthy-looking men telling me how hot I am and wanting to get to know me.

    I think it’s long past any time that we can get outraged over Facebook anymore. They do this type of thing all the time and they will continue to do this type of thing and it will get more and more intrusive until the day people stop using Facebook. Which won’t happen.

    As for the rest of us, we can continue to ignore the messages in our inbox the same way we ignore LinkedIn mail from faceless people who mysteriously have amazing business opportunities for us, and emails that promise to dance and sing if we forward it to 400 people. We’re about to enter the age of the complete assassination of privacy and so long as people can continue to post photos of food, they generally won’t care.

    Not to be pessimistic or anything!

  • ShellyKramer

    LOL. The “as long as people can continue to post pictures of food they won’t care” made me literally laugh out loud Carol! I agree. I don’t things are changing any time soon and I’m pretty good at ignoring as it is :) )
    Happy New Year to you!!!

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