Why I decided to leave Facebook

I’ve been thinking about leaving Facebook for a while now. Facebook has evolved into something different over the past few years and it just isn’t fun anymore for me as an individual.

The repeated modifications to how private data is handled has made Facebook seem less trustworthy and credible. In addition, the lack of tools for managing what we have historically posted and shared is disappointing–not having the ability to search for and manage legacy content we’ve shared (e.g., comments on friends walls) is especially bad for younger Facebook users who don’t fully understand the implications of permanently sharing nearly everything with the world.

I love staying in touch with all of my friends and family, but Facebook just isn’t Facebook anymore.

Leo Laporte, a tech guru who I admire, deleted his account live on episode 42 of his show This Week in Google–mainly because he also is concerned and tired of the repeated privacy modifications.

Jason Calacanis, CEO of Mahalo.com, wrote a post titled The Big Game, Zuckerberg and Overplaying your Hand. In the post Jason lays out a timeline of actions Facebook has taken to hurt partners, developers, and encroach upon the privacy of Facebook users.

In Price of Facebook Privacy? Start Clicking, Nick Bilton writing for the New York Times, describes how Facebook has chosen to share user’s personal data with third party sites and how confusing management of Facebook privacy settings is. In short, Facebook users are now automatically opted-in to sharing personal data with third parties. Applications that Facebook users install are no longer required to dump personal data after 24 hours.

Bilton’s article included an infographic titled Facebook Privacy: A Bewildering Tangle of Options which illustrates the 50 settings and 170 options the average Facebook user must navigate to manage their privacy as well as changes to the Facebook Privacy Statement since 2005. Bilton spoke with and quoted Facebook representatives who said:

“There are always trade-offs between providing comprehensive and precise granular controls and offering simple tools that may be broad and blunt,” said Elliot Schrage, vice president for public policy at Facebook. “We have tried to offer the most comprehensive and detailed controls and comprehensive and detailed information about them.”

The New York Times published a post to their Bits Blog titled Facebook Executive Answers Reader Questions. In this post, Schrage replies to the user question “Why simply set everything for opt-in rather than opt-out?”

Everything is opt-in on Facebook. Participating in the service is a choice. We want people to continue to choose Facebook every day. Adding information — uploading photos or posting status updates or “like” a Page — are also all opt-in. Please don’t share if you’re not comfortable.

Leo Laport discussed this response during episode 43 of This Week in Google and I agree with Leo’s overall assessment: by using Facebook we were opting in to share personal information with friends and family whom we specifically choose and/or confirmed relationships with. We did not join Facebook to have our personal information made public for Facebook to use as they deemed necessary. Even if you take the effort to “lock-down” your privacy settings, friends who have not done the same will likely unintentionally share information about you as they use Facebook and Web sites connected to Facebook.

Businesses and organizations also are having difficulty managing their corporate identities on Facebook. As part of my social media consulting work I have contacted Facebook multiple times to request that administration rights for Facebook Pages representing organizations, that were created without authorization by fans, be transfer to proper representatives. Facebook’s policy clearly indicates that fans should create groups and only official/authorized corporate representatives should create pages (which are intended to be official platforms for musicians, public figures, and organizations). Facebook sent curt support request replies indicating that they would not transfer administrative rights away from original Facebook Page creators. I learned from a colleague at another organization that Facebook will assist businesses to consolidate/transfer Facebook Page rights when they purchase Facebook advertising services. So, if you spend $50,000/month on Facebook ads, then you can have your organizations page. Nice guys. Really nice.

The ability to manage our personal information has been reduced and continues to be encroached. Facebook is putting spin on unethical corporate behavior and hoping that we will all continue to offer up personal data for them to leverage for profit.

I decided to spend a day moving links and comments from my Facebook profile to my personal blog. I intend to leave my Facebook account open, so that people can still find me, and so that I am able to manage my personal identity on Facebook. But, I have stripped personal information from the account, and left a note for where my friends can now find me (i.e., by visiting my blog).

Facebook, I really really liked you. But, I don’t think we can be friends anymore.

3 Comments

  1. Adam May 15, 2010
  2. Michael VanPutten May 17, 2010
  3. Garald (Gary) Barton May 26, 2010

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