Obama's new Facebook app isn't presidential material

The Are You In? Facebook app is more tired than wired -- and clearly not ready for the Oval Office.

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All politics aside, no candidate or campaign in our nation's history has ever matched Barack Obama's 2008 presidential run for pure tech savvy. 

As Facebook apps go, Are You In is about as brain-dead simple as they come. All it does is announce to your friends that you're “in” for the 2012 campaign, then gives you a central page where you can harangue people in your contact list to also declare themselves “in.”

That is, when it works. But Are You In never really worked the way Facebook apps are supposed to.

[ See also: That new Facebook friend might just be a spy ]

First problem: When I signed on, Are You In failed to display a permissions screen – you know, the one where the app tells you what information it's going to suck out of your profile and what it's going to do with it, and giving you the option of saying Thanks But No Thanks?  Instead, I got dropped straight into the app.

obama are you in?

I had to check my Privacy settings to make sure it had actually installed. Yep, it had. Even weirder, though, when I checked my app's access log, it told me that it had last accessed my friends' birthdays and cities on October 24, even though I installed the app today.

obama are you in 

I thought, OK, maybe the fact I had ‘Liked' the Obama a while back accounted for the lack of a permissions screen and the weird access log data. So I decided to try again with a different identity.

I launched one of my more fictional Facebook personae and found the Are You In app page (which wasn't easy). This time when I got to the “Invite your friends” page none of my friends were listed, and the app never actually got installed. I tried it with a second fake Facebook profile – same thing happened. No contacts, no app.

I went to the Barack Obama campaign Web page and clicked Connect With Facebook – now, finally, I got to see the permissions screen, and voila, the app was listed in my profile. (FYI, the app collects email addresses – so if you don't want to get emails from the campaign, don't install it.)

facebook are you in permissions

But I still could not view any contacts or issue any invites. So I decided to get in touch with the app developer using the Report/Contact link at the bottom of the app page so I could tell them their creation was acting a bit wonky. Here's what I got:

facebook obama speaks latin

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, baby. That's faux latin for “we haven't gotten around to creating this page yet because we figured nobody would ever click here.”

Also: It's not actually possible for normal humans to send them an email; the Lorem ipsum page requires a secure log on and password.

And did I mention that the app has no posted privacy policy, in clear violation of the Facebook Platform terms of service? Click the privacy policy link in the Permissions screen (assuming you actually see one) and you'll get a “Sorry the page you're looking for isn't here” message. I couldn't find a link anywhere else.

Maybe the app was being funky because too many people were signing on at once. Maybe there were glitches on my end (though I tried this in Chrome, Firefox, and IE). But Lorem ipsum? No privacy policy? Seriously?

Yes, it's extremely early in the campaign. But the Obamanites been through this before. They're supposed to be better at it by now. The tech eggheads now have egg on their faces – and their Facebook.

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