I quit Facebook…again. This is actually the second time. The first time, I deleted my account because I didn’t pay much heed to privacy settings and was inundated with emails and friend invitations from former classmates from decades ago that I could barely remember. The spam was overwhelming. A close friend (who I actually do socialize with) convinced me to re-create my account with some advice on setting up the privacy options so I could not be found by the unwashed masses. For a few months, all was well.
Facebook’s Privacy Settings
Facebook’s privacy setting user interface makes the flight deck on the Airbus 380 look like a child’s plaything. I’m a web developer and even I couldn’t figure it out. How could your typical consumer possibly work out how to protect their privacy through these settings? I’ve developed the strong suspicion that Facebook is intentionally obfuscating control of your information because their monetization scheme relies on the open sharing of contact and preference information. This is completely fine…but just say that this is the case and tailor your privacy options accordingly rather than creating the illusion that typical users have any privacy. It’s not the fact that Facebook uses your personal information for monetization. What bothers me is the “bait and switch” behavior. Facebook could even consider charging users to go into “stealth mode” if they want, but I’m highly suspect of their constantly changing privacy policies and the unnecessary complexity of their UI.
I’d seen and heard enough, and deleted my Facebook account. But wait…this time, there was no delete option. Instead I was invited to “deactivate” it and told that to “reactivate” it, all I had to do was log in normally. That was very comforting.
I’m Not Alone
Silicon Alley Insider has been very active lately lambasting Facebook’s privacy issues. Humorously, SAI’s blog post “10 Reasons to Delete your Facebook Account” presciently listed incompetence as one of the reasons. Days later, Facebook had yet another privacy compromising software glitch. This time other private information could be compromised, including chat conversations. Bad timing for Facebook as this came in the middle of SAI and CNET blasting them for security concerns. Poor Mark Zuckerberg…this screw up comes hot on the heels of his announcement of plans to share personal information with other, external “partner” web sites. I wonder who his “partners” are and what they plan to do with my private information.
The other side of the argument is that the only reason for you to be on Facebook is that you specifically want to share your contacts and preferences with others. I also enjoy corporate Facebook fan pages so you can keep in touch with your favorite companies and they can keep their finger on the pulse of their customers. For me, however, I don’t feel like I have enough control over the personal information I’m handing over to Facebook. I don’t have this concern about many other online services, such as LinkedIn, primarily because I haven’t seen the constant change and shrouds of confusion associated with privacy issues like I see on Facebook.
Sorry Facebook, I’m unfriending you.