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Ice Bucket Videos and Facebook Trigger Rising UK Mobile Data Bills

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014 (8:16 am) - Score 517

At some point over the past few weeks somebody you know has probably poured a bucket of ice water over themselves (possibly for charity) and posted the video to Facebook. Unfortunately for Smartphone owners this phenomenon can have the unintended consequence of causing your Mobile Broadband data bills to skyrocket, thanks largely to Facebook’s auto-play videos feature.

The auto-play feature has been around since the end of last year and is enabled by default on Facebook, regardless of whether you’re surfing the service via a WiFi or mobile 3G / 4G connection. But not everybody has a connection with “all-you-can-eat” or “unlimited” data and recently there’s been a spike in moans about higher than usual data bills.

The cause isn’t hard to find and indeed anybody with a prolific Facebook user in the household will probably be able to locate an example, my wife being one such individual (her 1GB allowance vanished in the space of 12 days.. it usually lasts a month and then some). But the trend of Ice Bucket Challenge videos has recently become so common that, aside from being a waste of valuable drinking water, it’s also wiping out data allowances faster than “holidaying” Russian tanks can cross into Ukraine.

The BBC and MSE recently put this problem into context by reporting that more than 2.4 million IBC videos had been posted on Facebook. Related videos then get shared around the network and multiplied exponentially, with Facebook auto-playing them all as you scroll your way past individuals that you’ve probably never even heard of before.

A similar problem can occur on some websites that insist upon auto-playing videos (usually adverts) when you load up a page, which alongside pop-ups and full page adverts are easily one of the single most annoying features to grace the online world. Sadly it’s unclear why Facebook enables this feature by default for users on 3G and 4G links, but mercifully you can disable it and save your data allowance for other, perhaps more constructive, pursuits.

Assuming you can figure out how to reach the Settings Page for the Facebook app (this can be found under the general settings area on iPhone/iPads or from the app itself when using Android devices) then the necessary option to select “Auto-play videos on WiFi only” is usually near the top as one of the primary selections. Enable it.

facebook_autoplay_video_settings

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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