Monday 31 May is Quit Facebook Day, and I have decided to do just that.
Over the past few months I’ve been getting more and more fed up with Facebook. I’ve been watching their approach to privacy and respect (or lack of it) for their users’ data with dismay, and it’s reached the point at which my distrust of the site has gone critical. Yes, they’re making noises that they’re going to simplify your privacy settings, but I am just not in the slightest bit convinced. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a case of making the minimum concessions they can get away with to get some good PR and keep various random governments off their backs, then start pushing it up again once the dust settles.
You know these applications that you get, telling you things like what Star Wars character you are, or your Myers-Briggs type? The ones where you have to add them to your profile just to see what your friend’s answer was? They aren’t built by Facebook themselves but by third parties, who, for all I know, could have their servers in some country where data protection laws are nonexistent and the Mafia run the government. And the amount of personal data that they can get their mitts on through the Facebook developer API is downright scary.
It’s been a complete bait-and-switch. When Facebook first started, its big selling point was that it was all private: unless you were friends with someone, you couldn’t see anything on their profiles except their list of friends, and in some cases not even that. Nowadays, you can click through to almost anyone you like on Facebook and you can see everything they’ve posted and everything that everyone else has posted about them, including those embarrassing photos of them at a party several years ago. Complete strangers. I find that creepy.
I have of course locked down my account as far as I can, but I don’t even trust them with that any more—and of course, even with their new “simplified” privacy settings, there are still things that they force you to make public. That’s why, a couple of weeks ago, I deleted almost everything from my Facebook profile and left every group that I was a member of. I stopped short of unfriending everybody: that’s the last step I’ll take before actually closing my account.
For those of you who want to keep in touch with me, I will still be online, just in different places: e-mail, my blog, LinkedIn, and for the geeks among you, github and Stack Overflow. I’m also going to start using Twitter again: I closed down my Twitter account a couple of months back for different reasons that I won’t go into here, but I recently re-opened it, and I’ll probably start making a bit more use of it. I don’t have the same objections to Twitter as I do to Facebook: it may be public but it doesn’t pretend to be otherwise, and it’s nice and simple, only demanding a bare minimum amount of personal information. I’m not sure quite how much I’ll use it in the end, and I can’t guarantee that it won’t be a complete geek-out, but if you think you’ll miss me from Facebook, it’s there as an alternative.