Over the weekend, it came out that New York ComicCon actually hijacked the Twitter accounts of its patrons to post enthusiastic self-promoting tweets.
This was not an accident. It was not some technological FUBAR, and it was not an innocent mistake. As Ben Silverman at Yahoo!Games says: “…it was by design. By nefarious, promotional, fine-print design.
See, NYCC was using RFID (that’s radio frequency identification, for those who aren’t as tech-savvy) tags in their badges as a security measure. This way it ties the badge to the person, to prevent people from passing off their badges to someone else. That’s fine (I guess, but my rant on that would take up another post entirely) well and good, except that the con promoters encouraged the badge-holders to link up their social media accounts. When they did, their social media passwords (Facebook, Twitter and probably more) were passed via the RFID tag to the con promoters, who had set up an automated system that blasted tweets that didn’t belong to their owners.
This. Is. Just. Wrong.
I realize that we’re living in an ever-more-connected world. Privacy is nearly a thing of the past (again, another rant for another time) and it seems like we’re handing out our personal information to anyone who’s got a website. An adage repeated more and more on the web is: if the site is free, you’re not a user; you’re the product. We are what’s being sold, and we’re mostly oblivious to it.
Until it gets obvious.
Just attending a con does not give the showrunners permission to post their awkward poetry to my social media stream. (Here’s the picture to illustrate my point.) My opinions are mine, and that’s why my social media account is password-protected. I don’t mind signing in to an app if a con I’m going to wants to produce one, but they’d better be treating my data (especially my damn passwords!) like any reputable company. Using my passwords to login to my social media accounts to post self-promotional drivel makes me look bad. What if I don’t agree? What if I don’t “love” NYCC? What if I’m annoyed by the crowds and a staff member just treated me like crap? That’s hardly the perfect time to be blowing your own horn.
NYCC has since apologized for the “perceived overstep” (nice weasel words there) and called it an “opt-in” service. It might technically be opt-in if you’ve buried the language in your TOS, but unless it comes up with a bright-colored pop-up window that says “WARNING: YOU’RE ABOUT TO GIVE US UNFETTERED ACCESS TO YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS TO POST STUFF ON YOUR BEHALF” I’m going to call it what it is.
Since they got caught, I’m sure it won’t happen again. Still, many genre fans (including myself) are regular convention-goers. We’re not the ones who put these events on, but we’re the ones that makes them mean something by showing our support with our dollars and our time, which is why this news is so important for us. I have to say, if something like this had happened to me, it would make me seriously think twice about attending any convention a second time.