Should you delete your Facebook account?

This May 31st is Quit Facebook Day, but I won’t be deleting my account. No, I got rid of it a few weeks ago. As much as I’d like to claim that this was entirely some kind of ethical stance, the simple truth was that I didn’t actually make much use of the service. If I had the same negative feelings about Twitter, quitting would be a much tougher decision.

Should you leave Facebook? Maybe. It’s certainly a question that a lot of people are asking. Then, if they decide to, they ask ‘so how the hell do I delete the thing?’ Enough that this has become a Google suggested result:

There’s actually a website dedicated to helping you find the elusive ‘delete’ hidden in the unnecessarily complicated settings. You can find out how well you have protected your privacy at Profile Watch. There’s also a handy bookmarklet at Reclaim Privacy that will similarly assess your profile. For a laugh, you can also read through some posts of other Facebook users, who probably think they are talking to their friends, not the entire internet: Openbook.

Are there real reasons to be worried? Well, after Facebook held a developer conference, lots of worried Google engineers left. And Google has hardly earned any privacy gold stars. And then there’s Mark Zuckerburg, the man behind the company, with a few thoughts on privacy (taken from an IM conversation when he was creating the service, then called The Facebook):

Zuck: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard
Zuck: Just ask. 
Zuck: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS
[Redacted Friend’s Name]: What? How’d you manage that one?
Zuck: People just submitted it. 
Zuck: I don’t know why. 
Zuck: They “trust me” 
Zuck: Dumb fucks.

Business Insider also has a fascinating expose on Zuckerburg. Decide for yourself if it holds much water, and if you think his character is likely to have improved in the last six years. 

It’s also interesting to witness how Facebook has eroded the default privacy settings over the years, from friends and family to almost completely exposing everything.

While most users may not understand/care about these issues, there are plenty who do. Enough that when a new project to create an open-source distributed social network asked for $10,000 to get started, they were overwhelmed with donations. As I write this, they have over $170,000 pledged.

So I guess Facebook just gives me the creeps.

Further reading and some handy links

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5 thoughts on “Should you delete your Facebook account?

  1. I suppose it gives me the creeps a little when I see how much of Facebook is exposed to everyone now.I’m quite a frequent ‘facebooker’ or whatever you want to call it and I’ve certainly made attempts to lock down my profile as much as I want to but I’m still not convinced to leave the site. It still serves a purpose for me and keeps me connected to those in my immediate social circle. I’m also not entirely sure what loss of privacy I’m experiencing as a facebook user. Even if I didn’t have an account, photos of myself would be posted by friends/family. I always stray away from adding phone numbers and ‘where I’m located’ updates so I’m kind of confused as to how I’m being invaded (I also realise that I may need to read up more about what’s going on).The way I see it, if you put yourself online (in any capacity) you open yourself up for a loss of privacy in some way shape or form.I think I’ll stick around a while longer but it looks as though this Facebook cause for concern is also sticking around.

  2. I think I’m going to use this post’s comments to post Facebook privacy stories when they pop up. Kind of a mini-blog. The Wall Street Journal reports how Facebook will fix problems, like giving users personally identifying information to advertisers despite promises to the contrary, if they get caught and put under enough pressure. There are genuinely positive signs, according to Time, that big changes may be afoot at Facebook to address their poor reputation in this area. It’ll be interesting to see what they do. Based on what Zuckerburg says, and what I’ve heard elsewhere, they’ll probably just improve the clarity and simplicity of their privacy settings, safe in the knowledge that most people live on default settings anyway.

  3. @JasonWStanley I do realise that Facebook offer something genuinely useful to people, and that if the cost for that is providing pretty detailed demographic information to advertisers, then maybe that is okay. I’m not even being facetious – this could be a fair deal.I think the bigger issue is trustworthiness. Facebook have shown many times that they are neither willing or able to treat your information with the care and respect you may hope.I think many people get caught out believing that they are in a more private space than they are. If you work from the assumption that everything there is public, and you don’t mind having the information deconstructed, you’re probably fine.

  4. These phone numbers are public on Facebook, although their owners probably don’t know that.

  5. Zuckerburg has sent Robert Scoble an email:Hey,We’ve been listening to all the feedback and have been trying to distill it down to the key things we need to improve. I’d like to show an improved product rather than just talk about things we might do.We’re going to be ready to start talking about some of the new things we’ve built this week. I want to make sure we get this stuff right this time.I know we’ve made a bunch of mistakes, but my hope at the end of this is that the service ends up in a better place and that people understand that our intentions are in the right place and we respond to the feedback from the people we serve.I hope we’ll get a chance to catch up in person sometime this week. Let me know if you have any thoughts for me before then.MarkIt’ll be interesting to see what they announce. I’ve heard talk of so-called ‘simplistic’ privacy controls, which besides the patronising name sounds like a great idea. I still think Facebook are being purely reactive. They keep doing whatever the hell they want, and only pull back when enough people complain and kick up a fuss. If they really had the best of intentions, I think they would have a very different track record.(Also, Scoble is such a whiny tool.)

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