Friday, April 23, 2010

Why I Left Facebook Today

I have deactivated my Facebook profile.  It is a matter of privacy.  Basically any and all of your information belongs not to you, but to Facebook, and they will use it in any way they see fit, and sell it to anyone they see fit.
Notice, I couldn’t even delete my account.  I only deactivated it.  It will exist forever, with its information, on Facebook’s servers – and if they find some way to sell or use it, trust me, it will get used.
But what’s the big deal?  I CHOSE to go to Facebook, I CHOSE to give it limited information about me, I’m even on the internet right now with this blog.  So why get upset?
You’re right, I did all those things, and I still maintain a web presence through this blog and email, but I just don’t like the implications of Facebook working in close collaboration with lots of other folks I don’t know, to use and market my information.
They are going to roll out a new LIKE feature.  If you stay logged in to Facebook, which actually is pretty easy – it is difficult to actually log OUT.  As you browse the web, you will be tracked, by Facebook.  When you come to one of their partner sites, read or participate in something, and click the LIKE button, a note appears on your wall so your friends know.  Harmless, right?  Pretty much, except that now Facebook knows more about you, and now that partner site has your permission (by you clicking LIKE) to have access to your entire Facebook life, from day one.  Everything they know about you, every website they know you’ve visited, all your data, and – here’s the kicker – all your friends’ public data.  Yep, even if I don’t want to play, just one of my friends stopping by the site automatically shares out my public data too.  Just a little too much for me.
I was already starting to feel uneasy about the way that Facebook was getting to know me.  It took the info I gave it, and started running its fingers through the web and through itself to sift and find out more.  Folks I hadn’t thought about in years were suddenly being suggested as friends, and it was kind of creepy the way the site could put things together to know more about me.  Of course those folks I knew years ago were also getting little notes about me too.
Yes, this information has almost always been available, but never in such a connected way before.  Facebook is a 24/7 machine that constantly sifts your data and constantly looks for connections to grow in its knowledge of you.  It doesn’t sound or feel insidious until you think through some implications.
- Watch the movie Minority Report.  Not for the plot or acting, but for the way that every person is targeted with personalized advertisement everywhere they go.
- What happens when work and social life begin to collide?  Oh you may never ‘friend’ someone from work – but what happens when one of your friends does?  Or if work decides that Facebook is a perfect place to promote collaboration among employees and the next thing you know you’re being asked to sign up.  You might create a second, alternate identity, but the slightest slip, or one of your other friends makes the connection, and bingo, it all gets linked together.  FOREVER.
- What happens when someone uses or borrows your computer and Facebook is still tracking you?  Your teenaged relative uses it for just a few minutes, and suddenly YOUR web activity shows that you sometimes hang around on teenage chat sites.
- Government subpoena or frivolous lawsuit.  Are you sure that all of your web activity shows you to be the most loyal, hardworking, upstanding citizen that ever existed?  By telling the world about the power of the LIKE button, Facebook made themselves the target of those who want someone’s personal life and web activities made public.
- I personally think a hot new business will be in doing background searches for employees.
- Just imagine your best friend, who knows all your info and life, sitting down, every day with marketing folks and telling them anything and everything they need to know about you in order to help them sell you something.  I like my friends, and invite them to know me better, but I depend on their discretion too.  Facebook publicly states that they do not intend to have that discretion.