Jan 112010
 

“But we viewed that as a really important thing, to always keep a beginner’s mind and think, what would we do if we were starting the company now, and starting the site now, and we decided that these would be the social norms now, and we just went for it,” Mark Zuckerberg, The Crunchies Awards.

With these words, Zuckerberg officially declared war on my Privacy.

Let me start from the beginning. I have had a long and intimate relationship with Facebook. I was one of the individuals who petitioned to add Kettering University  (where I then went to school) to their network of universities. I was a huge proponent from the beginning, recruiting many of the friends that I have on there today. It was a beacon of light coming out of the chaos that was myspace. The simplicity and ease of sharing information and connecting with people blew my mind.

I watched Facebook grow, supported it when it opened up to people outside of university networks. I saw it through several user interface design changes, including the (at the time) unpopular newsfeed. I thought it was an ok idea. I was a bit reserved, but got used to it.

All of this was the process of building a great service. Zuckerberg was a born entrepreneur, he knew how to start a business. What I later found out was that he couldn’t get out of the start-up mode and into maintaining a great business.

At one point, Facebook implemented very strict privacy controls, so that users could control who could, and could not see their data. In fact, you could control whether or not anyone could see your profile.  I took full advantage of this, for purely selfish reasons, but reasons none the less.

The decision was primarily fueled by the fact that many of my mom’s students were getting on Facebook and trying to friend me. I was not particularly interested in her having to explain grown-up things to her schoolchildren.

So, I was quite content. For about a year or two, Facebook was perfect. In my eyes, of course. Then, the start of my woes started cropping up. I started learning that Facebook was selling my information to companies, with my “consent”. Warning bells started going off in my head, but when Facebook backed off and implemented new privacy policy, I calmed down.

Then the user interface started degrading. They made me have to look at two pages to get things off of the news feed. This was generally annoying, but not enough to drive me off the platform.

However, recently, Facebook radically changed its privacy settings. It theoretically allowed you to keep your old settings, so I decided to give it ago. However, that was when the friend requests started flooding in. I was miffed, I told Facebook to keep my old settings, how did I start getting friend requests? That should have been impossible.

Then I started combing through the Privacy settings… They abolished the ability to hide your profile or control who sends you friend requests. Technically, you can hide yourself from search results, but if you have any mutual friends, someone can easily find you. This torqued me off.

To make matters worse, I discovered that unless you directly edit the settings, your friends can use most of your information in any of their applications or websites. This effectively allows your information to be shared with companies and groups which you have no affiliation with.

This put Facebook and me in an extremely uncomfortable position. However, it was not until reading Zuckerberg’s words that I finally snapped. He had decided that sharing information publicly was the new social norm. Taking away my ability to keep information to myself was all part of their grand plan to redefine privacy standards.

It showed me that Facebook has absolutely no intention of respecting my privacy. I would venture to say that in the future (a claim they would surely refute), Facebook will continue slowly degrading its privacy settings until virtually all information is public.

Now, many people will say I am over-reacting, just as I did when people were angry about things in the past. That’s fine, perhaps I am. But with most online services, I don’t have the expectation of privacy. In fact, I expect them to be scoundrels who will use my information for barely legal purposes. I tailor my information to that expectation.

With Facebook, especially while they had strong privacy settings, I grew to expect privacy. I expected that my information would stay private according to the settings which I defined. In fact, that if I so chose, I would not be findable, let alone friendable. They betrayed my trust. That, friends, is what sent me over the edge.

So, as of this evening, I have either removed, or restricted almost all of my Facebook profile. I will continue to allow Twitter to show my status, and I will allow Facebook to import my blog posts. I will also continue interacting on Facebook. But, you can expect that I will be decreasing my interaction with Facebook, and will not put any more information on there.

If you would like to keep up with what’s going on in my life, you can view my blog posts, if they are longer than what will import into Facebook, select “view original post”. I will be posting contact information on my blog in the form of a restricted page. If you want access to it, register, and I will approve you (if I know who you are).

Be careful with what information you share.

– Joel

Mentioned in this post:

http://www.technewsworld.com/story/69081.html

http://words.timsworlds.com/2010/01/11/facebook-declares-open-war-on-privacy/

  One Response to “The War on Privacy, Why I am (mostly) Dropping Facebook”

  1. With Facebook, especially while they had strong privacy settings, I grew to expect privacy. I expected that my information would stay private according to the settings which I defined. In fact, that if I so chose, I would not be findable, let alone friendable. They betrayed my trust. That, friends, is what sent me over the edge.

    Well said.

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