Why ManyChat is Unethical and a Breach of Privacy
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Update (4/8/2018): Sadly, ManyChat is still going strong, even though many people have asked about the nature of it. With the issues at Facebook regarding data being leaked, we can only hope that programs such as ManyChat are eliminated. Remember, keep yourself safe by reporting companies that message you without consent. If everyone takes a stand against breaches of privacy, then social media platforms will listen and hopefully act accordingly.
Here at The Socii Project, we have made it clear our disdain for bots and API's that legitimately remove the human element of social media. We aren't against all programs (I.E. organization platforms), but we believe that social media is becoming less and less human, resulting in spam and a lack of trust.
We come across many new programs that claim to improve your social media, but we recently came across one that gave us chills. ManyChat (we aren't going to hyperlink to the site, because frankly we don't want to drive traffic there) is a powerful program that allows you to message individuals on Facebook, from a bot that represents your business page. Facebook has made it clear that they don't want business pages contacting personal pages, to the point that you can't even message people that like your page, unless they message you first. This is frustrating, and ManyChat decided to do something about it.
So what is the problem with a business page messaging personal Facebook pages? Nothing really, it is more about the power ManyChat gives its clients. If you have this program, individuals that comment on your content, message you, or interact in other ways will be added to a subscription list. Within this list, you can then automatically message these individuals. You have the power to make your bot message look as human as possible (even allowing you to delay the timing of your messages). There are some rules, for instance you only have 24 hours to message them promotional or "sales" oriented content, but that really doesn't matter, since you have their info on the subscription list for later use.
What makes ManyChat so unethical, is not how human you can make this automated messaging service, but rather the subscription lists you can generate. If an individual goes to a website and decides to put their info into an email subscription box, then they are willingly giving up their information. With ManyChat, individuals are unknowingly signing up to be a part of a list that allows them to get messaged by this company. This is scary, and completely unethical. We have all witnessed individuals commenting on a Facebook post. Within this comment, is simply the handle of a friend of theirs, someone they want to see the post as well. This completely spartan comment will get you on a list you had no desire to be on whatsoever.
So how exactly does it work? Let's say a company was selling furniture and wanted to generate more subscribers on their ManyChat account. They can create a post on Facebook stating something like,
"What is your favorite type of wood when it comes to dining room tables? Let us know below and we will let you know ours!"
A Facebook user will see this post and may reply with an answer, but do they know that they just signed up for a subscription service that includes their photo, gender, and time zone? Absolutely not. They simply wanted to answer a question and are now suddenly part of an automated messaging system. Do they have the ability to leave the subscription? Yes, but this is a remedy for an issue that is unethical and a breach of privacy. So what can marketers do with your info? Besides automatically messaging you, they can tag you with certain info and in theory could sell your info to a company that would benefit from it. Let's say the furniture company has a partner company that sells home appliances. They could share data with each other and then reach out to you in various ways. What if it's a health based company, one where even knowing the name of an individual is private information? The possibilities are endless.
Again, ManyChat attempts to remedy this by clearly stating that you can opt out of these messages at any time. That is a reactionary solution to a technique that is shady, grey-hat, and blatantly wrong. Social media marketers could create posts solely around the premise of getting larger and larger subscription lists, which will allow for more messaging. They are baiting individuals to comment, not because they want to hear what they are saying, but rather just to get into the door in order to have a more intimate conversation. Users aren't aware, aren't even playing the same game, and don't even know of ManyChat's power. Frankly, this service is predatory in nature and shouldn't be allowed.
There are many shady programs out there, but ManyChat is one of the most egregious. We are shocked Facebook is even allowing this program to perform, and we have to think that they are watching it very closely. We suggest that if you receive a message on Facebook from a company, one that you have no desire to talk to, you should report the business to Facebook. It may seem harsh, but that is the only way we can prevent social media from becoming saturated with marketers spamming their content.
What do you think? Do you think ManyChat is unethical? Are you shocked you could be put on a subscription list, only from commenting on a Facebook post? Let us know!