Bye Bye Facebook

As you may have noticed, Facebook has been copping a great deal of flak in the media lately for recent changes to its privacy policy.  There is growing evidence that Facebook as a company has few scruples or ethics when it comes to the way they view and use your personal data.  The company has continually “baited and switched” the privacy settings in Facebook to the point where they have become so confusing and complex that few people truly understand them.  There are something like 50 choices leading to about 170 different privacy variations possible, all needing to made in multiple locations in Facebook, with very little consistency or “expected behaviour” between them…  consequently, there could be significant parts of your personal data that is being made public without you realising. Facebook seems to be working on the principle that most users never look at the default settings or take the time to think through their options.  The most recent changes made to their privacy policy have made the sharing of your personal information “opt-out”, rather than the previous method of “opt-in”.  This means that, unless you wade through the many privacy settings to turn them off, you are probably sharing far more than you realise. Added to this is the recent change to the Facebook Privacy Policy that essentially grants Facebook the rights to give your data to third parties and advertisers in order to target marketing to you.  The infographic to the right was created by Matt McKeon, and links to his page where you can explore an interactive version which shows how the default sharing policy on Facebook has changed over time.  It’s a bit scary!

Interestingly, the Facebook Privacy Policy –which all Facebook users must agree to in order to use the service – has grown to become almost 6000 words long.  Do you know what it says?

Personally, I find this unethical behaviour completely unacceptable and, along with many others across the web, have decided to close my Facebook account.  Like many Facebook users, there have been times when I’ve found the service useful in helping me connect to friend and family, but their recent display of unethical, almost fascist, behaviour has left me with little choice but to cancel the service.  Although I had taken the time in the past to secure my Facebook account (and I was savvy enough to do so) I cannot, in principle, support a company that shows such a cavalier attitude to the privacy of their user base.

If you are a Facebook user, I would strongly encourage you to check the settings in your account to make sure they are doing what you expect.  There is a useful tool at http://www.reclaimprivacy.org/
that will actually probe your Facebook account to show you how it looks to the outside world.  I would strongly encourage you to take the time to check yours.

There is also much bigger issues about Facebook. Its disregard for open standards, its walled garden approach that continually borrows steals ideas from all over the web, its willingness to do whatever it takes to keep users within the Facebook environment… I believe in the longer term will be bad for the Internet in general. That’s a much bigger issue and beyond the scope of this particular post, but when you add it all up, I can’t in all good faith continue to support a company that continually exhibits evil motives.  Facebook might be a useful service for many, and it might offer a certain convenience factor by bringing things into one place, but there is no doubt in my mind that Facebook will bad for the open web in the longer term.

Many people in the Internet community are so outraged by the continual display of unethical behaviour of Facebook and their CEO Mark Zuckerberg that here is an official “Quit Facebook Day” organised for May 31.

If you feel strongly enough about the approach that Facebook is taking, you may also decide to close your account to send a message to the company that you are not willing to use a service that shows such scant concern for their users privacy.

Here are just a few articles (of many!) about the recent changes that you may want to read if you need more information.  It’s worth getting the full story.

I realise that many people find Facebook very useful, and many will not want to take the extreme step of deleting their account, but I do hope you take the time to make sure your account is sharing what you think it is, and to even perhaps share some of this conversation with your students.

CC BY-SA 4.0 Bye Bye Facebook by Chris Betcher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

6 Replies to “Bye Bye Facebook”

  1. I agree 100% with what you have written here. I, too, have locked my privacy settings right down. The bigger issue for me, though, is continuing to support a business model that I totally disagree with. Facebook, as an institution, have shown total disregard and disrespect for its user-base. Their model for instituting changes seems to be that of your typical dodgy used car salesperson: start with a ridiculously high price, act affronted when told the price is too high, lower the price while ensuring the consumer that s/he is getting a great deal, and still end up ripping off the consumer.

    I, too, am tired of the ‘Facebook Two-Step’ and started a Facebook group (oh the irony!) to get people to commit to deleting their account on 15 June.

  2. my biggest problem with facebook is that they seem to have no clue about their users, and blatantly disrespect them. most people use facebook for personal purposes: to keep in touch and share personal information with friends & family. fb either doesn’t know their business, or doesn’t care (<–my guess) that their users use fb primarily for this intimate info – exactly the kind of data you *don't* want shared with the world at large. a mashable poll last year showed that even tech users who use a variety of social media use fb for personal reasons, probably reasons very much like mine: my friends and family aren't big tech users and it would take a shutdown to pry them away from the only social media they know. despite the latest big migration, most of my friends and family have not come from myspace or elsewhere. they started and ended with fb, and they suffer greatly from a case of "the devil you know."

    you're right – people like my family wouldn't have a clue about all the different privacy settings, despite how much i harp about it, how many links i post, how many "how to" videos i post to walk them through it. i have always kept mine at "friends only," but that doesn't mean much when your friends leave theirs wide open.

    will i leave fb? no. *not* because i don't want to (i would LOVE TO), but because i live half a world away from my friends and family and it's the only way i have to keep in such close contact with them. a pity.

    i really enjoyed clint's apt analogy as well :O)

  3. Hi Chris

    Great post!

    The nerdy physicist/mathematician in me has to point out that the number of privacy variations in Facebook is a lot more than 170, more like 1.3*10^21 or over 1 billion trillion from my calculations!

  4. By the way, this post originally started out as an email that i sent internally to all our staff today. It was encouraging to hear that several of them took the trouble to check their account for privacy, and several others deleted theirs.

    I think there will be an even bigger anti-FB backlash once the Accidental Billionaires movie is released, and people see what a pratt Zuckerberg really is.

    Thanks for the support guys.

That's all well and good, but what do YOU think?