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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

Leave a Comment
5 Responses
  1. Avatar Pedrostech says:

    Ice bucket challenge-In my case Ice pressure washer challenge… The auto play video features causes more annoyance than just using mobile data; it causes some of my not-so-old computers to grind at the seams. In one case, the FB tab was using in excess of 1.5GB of RAM!

    1. Avatar gerarda says:

      I never used Facebook much but I now avoid them and any other site ( Yahoo for example) that inflicts auto start videos on you. I am thinking of putting in a suggestion to Mozilla for a feature that would allow you block autorun videos in Firefox

    2. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      The problem with that would be distinguishing between auto-run videos and dynamic rich-media in a websites navigation system, which thanks to modern HTML5 and other methods can look like one and the same to a browser. Sort of like the effect that some AdBlock systems had on the old flash-based websites.

      Browsers also have to be mindful about not introducing measures that might stifle the potential for innovation in similar fields.

    3. Avatar Raindrops says:

      This to block flash videos
      https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/flashblock/
      This to block HTML5 videos
      https://addons.mozilla.org/en-us/firefox/addon/stop-tube/

      Wont stop it all but should stop all the youtube embedded facepalm stuff

  2. Avatar Bob says:

    I don’t see a problem with people paying the ignorance tax…

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