19 November 2013

My beef with Facebook

When I joined Facebook, it was still just a reaction to MySpace, which had become overrun by troll accounts and spam. Facebook was refreshing because I could apply the privacy lessons I had learned (the hard way) on MySpace, and use it to keep in touch with family and friends to share news and photos, and it has such a friendly and neutral white and blue theme.

For years, it worked splendidly.

Then, news about privacy infringement began surfacing. Articles started appearing, like one I noticed on Reddit about a tricky setting for the iOS app that would steal your contacts' information if you clicked on an innocuous button labeled 'Find More Friends'.

Then came Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's post in November of 2011, Our Commitment to the Facebook Community admitting to making 'mistakes' about user privacy after being accused by the United States Federal Trade Commission of deliberately revealing information users had indicated they wanted kept private (Warman, 2011). Matt McKeon's interactive graphic, The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook, gives a very clear visualization of the problem. Click on the image to visit his site.

To tell the truth, I'm happy to publish photos and articles and I don't mind people being able to stalk me. It's my responsibility to make sure I don't reveal anything damaging or overly revealing.

My beef with Facebook is not about privacy; it's about trust. Making an agreement and then changing it substantively is wrong, online or offline.

I still maintain a profile for three reasons. First, my mom would kill me if I stopped. Second, I really can keep in touch with friends and family around the world quite conveniently. Third, I want to have a presence on the biggest social network because I partially believe that the best way to protect privacy is to flood the web with an overwhelming amount of data beyond anyone's or any computer's ability to make sense of (that is until quantum computing becomes ubiquitous, I suppose).

Below is an interesting infographic from Abigail Pichel's post, Public or Private? The Risk of Posting in Social Networks, to provide some perspective, especially to beginning social networkers.

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