Today, I logged into Facebook and got a huge, honking message saying they needed my birthday as a “security measure.” Then I got a second overlay message popping up right on top of that to make clear I really needed to enter it.
Color me confused. I thought Facebook already had my birthday. In fact, I know they had it, because I’d given it before to be shown on my profile. But then after they did all those scary privacy changes last December, I took my birthday off my profile.
So WTF? Did pulling it off my public profile mean that Facebook lost its internal record of the date? And why over a month later did Facebook suddenly decide it needed my birthdate. Shouldn’t it have known it was gone back in December, if that’s when it disappeared? And why do they need my birthday as a security measure at all?
Doing a quick search, I discovered these types of prompts have been happening at least since 2007. Peter Keung has a blog post from back then showing the same nag screen I got. He also asked Facebook why they needed his birthday and was told:
For the security of yourself and our other users, we need to verify that you are old enough to use the site. Additionally, there are certain age requirements for particular networks so that the right users are associating with the right network. No information that you provide to Facebook will be distributed or used in any way. Let me know if you have any other questions.
You know what? Want to verify I’m “old enough,” like over 13? Then ask me to pick my current age. You don’t need my exact birthdate to verify age (especially given it’s not really going to be verified anyway). Or ask for my birth month and year. You don’t need the exact date.
Unfortunately, there was no way to use Facebook unless I gave it my birthday. So I did. Or I did off by a few days. The first time, it came back saying I wasn’t old enough — despite having picked my correct birth year. Tried again, again no luck. Third time was a charm — except I then got logged out.
Now when I try to log in, I get this message:
Your account is temporarily unavailable due to site maintenance. It should be available again within a few hours. We apologize for the inconvenience.
I didn’t believe this message was correct. Why would only my account suddenly be unavailable due to “site maintenance” that seems to be affecting few other people. I mean, no one else is twittering about this problem. In reality, I suspected a screw-up based on the entire birthday thing.
So, I hit the help area. There’s an entire topic devoted to the “Site Maintanence” issue, telling me:
“Site Maintenance” usually means that we’re making an improvement to the database that your account is stored on. While we’re doing this, you will not be able to access your account. In most instances, this maintenance will last only a few hours. Please note:
- After the maintenance is over, you will still be able to login with the same password.
- Your profile and account will not be affected by the maintenance.
- We don’t do site maintenance on all accounts at the same time, so it is possible that some of your friends will be able to access the site while your account is unavailable.
- It is not necessary to contact us about Site Maintenance.
- If your maintenance lasts longer than 24 hours, please follow these instructions to clear your browser’s cache and cookies.
If you’re still having trouble after trying the above steps, please click here.
OK, so just big time coincidence? Just sit back and it’ll be OK in a few hours. Maybe? But being worried, I went ahead and used the form to request help. I got back this auto-response:
Thanks for your report. Some users have been experiencing difficulty logging into and using the site for several days. Specific symptoms of this issue include:
Inability to log in due to a “Site Maintenance” error message
Missing friends from the Friends page
Errors when trying to access Inbox
Unfortunately, we do not have a specific date for when this issue will be resolved, but we are working to fix it as soon as possible. Please note that this is a temporary display issue and no content has been removed from your account. Although we are unable respond to every bug report individually, we are reading them. We appreciate your patience.
Woah. The login screen gives me a message saying all will be good in a few hours. Facebook’s help pages give me a message saying all should be good in a few hours. But now Facebook’s autoresponder has no “specific date” for when things will be fixed.
All this started by a process that was designed to supposedly protect my security. I’m not feeling so secure.