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Facing up to Facebook Privacy

Facebook is one of the most important social platforms on the internet today. I joined it probably several years ago now, not long after Facebook Applications were introduced.

Those of you that follow me on my personal Short-Form “Bird” Social Media Site Before It Went Terrible account, @strategyoracle will probably know that I keep that account protected — i.e. only those that request to follow me and I allow can read my tweets. I do that because that is the way that I feel most comfortable using the service and it is how Short-Form “Bird” Social Media Site Before It Went Terrible is most useful to me. I have tried using that account both publicly and privately, and ultimately it was more useful and more comfortable to keep it protected.

On Facebook, I have also used the privacy options to make Facebook a tool that is useful to me and that I feel comfortable with. I was able to keep most of my information inside a small group of trusted friends and in doing so, I felt comfortable using it and sharing with it.

In recent years, though, the degree of control that Facebook gives you has eroded. This EFF post demonstrates how the service and its privacy policy has changed in this respect since 2005. I have found it more and more difficult to feel comfortable using Facebook in the context of these changes.

The final straw came today.

Now, it seems that any ‘connection’ that you make — whether it be with a friend, or a page that you ‘like’, has to be public.

Facebook came up with a screen asking me to make many ‘page’ connections public, based on my interests and activities that I had previously entered. Even leaving aside the fact that it showed me interests I had previously deleted from my profile, I was horrified to learn that unchecking all of the boxes to share the information actually removed all that information from my profile! There is now apparently no way to restrict information such as my activities and interests and only show that to trusted people. It’s share all, or have nothing, when it comes to this information.

It is quite clear to me that this is now the choice:

You either use Facebook as publicly as they want you to (even as that changes in the future), or you don’t use it at all.

I choose the latter. Assuming I don’t get convinced otherwise in the next few hours, I consider it pretty likely that I will delete my Facebook account. After all, I can always create one again later.

I am hugely disappointed that it seems Facebook doesn᾿t seem to respect people who are more private by nature. I am sorry to all those who may prefer Facebook as a medium for communication and will not be able to contact me there.

UPDATE: I went ahead with the delete. I can always create an account again later and remember you can always send me an email or request to follow me on Short-Form “Bird” Social Media Site Before It Went Terrible (or follow my public Short-Form “Bird” Social Media Site Before It Went Terrible account too).

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  1. Al wrote:

    I just read this post and your previous back to back. I like the disparity between wanting to keep your Facebook profile secret but “The web should be open.” from the previous post.

    I take the view that anything I put on the web (Twitter, Facebook) is public and amend the amount of information I publish to fit that. Works for me I guess!

    Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 11:25 | Permalink |
  2. Peter wrote:


    Commenting on blogs has, for the most part, always been something you do completely publicly on a public web page, such as this one.

    Posting all sorts of personal information to a social network, or sharing much more personal things on Twitter is a different thing entirely in my mind. I have always had an expectation that if I am being asked to put information I consider personal into such a service, I retain the control over where that information goes. If that control isn’t there, I won’t be comfortable with the service (as has now happened with Facebook).

    You have hit the nail on the head though with “works for me”. I found a way of using Facebook and Twitter that works for me and that I feel comfortable with. I left Facebook because that way of working was taken away.

    Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 12:25 | Permalink |

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    […] a strong proponent of users having control over their privacy online, I am pleased that the Do Not Track initiative, for indicating the […]

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