I’ve been a member of Facebook for about four and a half years. I joined after it was opened to individuals with a .edu email address, but before it became available to everyone. It’s become a huge part of my online life, one of the chief ways through which I communicate with my friends and acquaintances (and the only means I have of contacting some of them). But after some serious thought, I have finally decided to call it quits, delete my account, and move on with my life.
As many of you know, Facebook recently updated their privacy policies and procedures in a fairly significant way. This is getting a lot of deserved attention, even though Facebook has a perpetual development cycle and makes regular changes to their policies:
“The problem is the way they do it. Instead of opt-in, they automatically do that for you. They do not make opting out an easy proposition either. They camouflage this, bury it, and create negative consequences for not allowing them all your data (your life).” – source
Forcing your users to constantly check the current status of their privacy levels, and undo any overly-permissive new defaults, is pretty much the antithesis of user-friendliness. And it’s become standard operating procedure at the site.
My second issue with Facebook is that there appears to be no real deletion of data. I periodically cull my wall posts, messages, and other adornments. On a few occasions, I have seen old (previously deleted) posts get returned to my wall, requiring me to delete them again. While I certainly don’t post anything scandalous, or anything that I would mind my grandmothers seeing, it does bother me that all of this material is apparently sitting around on a server somewhere, waiting to be mined or otherwise used after I have expressly deleted it.
Third, while I appreciate Facebook’s ever-present desire to improve their product (and the resulting advances in user experience), they have done an exceptionally poor job of communicating with their users as to the timing, scope and importance of these changes. I shouldn’t have to subscribe to the developers’ blog, become anyone’s online friend, or wait to hear about a growing protest to find out what’s going on.
What all of these points add up to, for me, is the feeling that Facebook doesn’t really respect its users. Yes, it’s a private company; they can make whatever changes they want to their product. But as someone said, the reason that they are adopting an opt-out mentality may be because few people would voluntarily make the choice to share information in the way (and to the extent) that Facebook wants [source]. Doing something unappealing because you’re willing to bet (correctly) that a significant portion of your user base isn’t going to care enough to fight you–or flee to your competitor–isn’t exactly a shining example of corporate nobility.
Given Facebook’s dominance of the marketplace, and influence over collaborators, rivals, and the general populace, their continuing move away from direct user control toward obligated sharing creates a precedent which makes me very apprehensive. Not to mention unhappy. And though it means saying goodbye to a lot, I think it’s time for me to leave.
Boing-Boing linked to an essay that talked about Facebook’s history with user privacy; they also gathered together a few more “why it’s time to leave” posts.
A coworker created a LibGuide for our library on ALA’s: “Choose Privacy” campaign.
David Lee King has a post entitled “10 Reasons NOT to Quit Facebook” that is geared toward librarians. While I can see the value in continuing an institutional presence on FB, my ultimate concern is where Facebook appears to be heading as a company–and how comfortable they are in trampling on users to get there–not just whether or not there are (laborious) workarounds to current privacy issues.