Good Bye Facebook. Your Privacy Sucks!

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.

Still, I watched nervously while Facebook changed their privacy policy twice after I reinstated my account earlier this year.  The chatter about this started mounting on tech podcasts and blogs as did my level of nervousness about how well my privacy was indeed being protected.  In the middle of my fretting, Facebook had a software glitch which caused the email information of all of your Facebook contacts to be share with all users.  This did little to put my mind at ease, so I went in to have a look at the “new improved” privacy settings.

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.

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About the Author

Dave ReynoldsA software development professional and entrepreneur working on video delivery back-office and infrastructure by day and simple and focused web applications and mobile/location based devices after hours.View all posts by Dave Reynolds →

  1. MKMK05-08-2010

    Yeah, I myself tried to sort out the privacy settings and it took quite some time to work it out.

  2. Eric BerryEric Berry05-09-2010

    Leave Facebook but go where? What other service has so many connections available so easily? I think that until there is a viable alternative, this may be a price worth paying.

  3. MKMK05-09-2010

    @Eric, I agree. THAT is precisely the problem. There is nowhere else to go – yet. Until someone else comes out with something better that encourages mass exodus from Facebook, we won’t have an alternative. That’s the problem with these ‘big companies’. When they get this big they can do whatever they want!

  4. Dave ReynoldsDave Reynolds05-09-2010

    Yes…I am sure there will be an alternative someday just like Facebook unseated MySpace and MySpace killed off Friendster in most markets. Until then everyone will have to determine their own tolerance. I have some background in computer security and admit I may be a bit more paranoid than most.

  5. WKWK05-11-2010

    Why exactly does one need facebook to began with?
    Just simple tweet ur thoughts…

    Not to mention i myself am on not so secure facebook :)

  6. Dave ReynoldsDave Reynolds05-11-2010

    I agree…and 140 characters keeps it short and forces you to focus. On the other hand, after following some celebrities over here in the us I wish more of them would keep their thoughts to themselves…:).

    …and Twitter had it’s own software glitch this week leaving many of these poor celebrities follower-less.

  7. Eric BerryEric Berry05-11-2010

    Comparing Twitter to a Facebook alternative is like comparing snail mail to email. They are not in the same playing field, nor do either, in my opinion, consider each other competition. Facebook is for finding friends and staying in touch. Twitter is more voyeuristic.

  8. BruceBruce05-21-2010

    I love this post. It’s very insightful and I’ve learned a lot. I agree with the last tip: to take a rest. I tend to really make myself busy that I sometimes forget to take enough rest. This post confirms my need to take some time off. Thanks!

  9. ChrisChris12-22-2010

    Get .TEL, Privacy Is REAL !

  10. cablelettracablelettra01-22-2013

    Niedowolni rozmyślamy o formowanie niepolskich domów i grup w kryzysie.
    Toż azali wziąć okres, tak aby przygotować nieautorską organizację?
    Albowiem nagminnie obcisłego jednostki mają okrojone personelu,
    powierzchni a asortymentów, gwałtownie może zdradzać różnicę pośrodku życiem a
    wypada zapieczętować wejście. Ważne istnieje, aby przeznaczyć cokolwiek frazeologizmu, tak aby przygotować budowla, pracownicy tudzież sobie!