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Op-ed - Written by on Tuesday, May 18, 2010 19:25 - 8 Comments

Tim Bevins
Facebook = Evil. Quit now or die!

Okay, I don’t mean that. What I really mean is, fix your privacy settings, think about what you are posting if you have anything like a job or a future at stake, and get on with your life. Go here for a two-minute crash course in fixing your Facebook privacy settings and go here to find out how to check your current privacy settings on Facebook (you will still have work to do if you don’t like what you see).

The uproar (if you want to call it that since it only seems to be happening among a relatively small cadre of people and organizations, NOT among the vast, vast majority of the 400+ million Facebook users) over privacy changes is dumb. The changes themselves are entirely Facebook self-centered and entirely beneficial only to Facebook, but let’s not forget: Facebook members do not own Facebook, Zuckerberg et al. do.

What, you say? You must have forgotten because it’s become such an integral if not important part of your life but you Facebook members are members, not owners; you are users, customers, etc. Are you important? Sure. Who touts Facebook’s growth more than Facebook? In the spirit of the collaborative web, Facebook should consult with you before doing drastic changes to default settings that let anyone from China to Russia to Trinidad & Tobago know you had a bad date last night or need a new laptop – and then make you fix them. But they did not and now they are going to feel your wrath as you leave en masse – to do what? Set up another, more private, more narrow network on a new site that ensures only those six people you really want to read your life get to do that?

My bet – no hedging either – is that this is another tempest in a laptop hard drive. I will be surprised if more than 100,000 people leave Facebook on May 31, Quit Facebook Day. Today, May 18, 2010, 5,335 people have committed to quitting Facebook on May 31. Folks, the people who use Facebook have gotten past this kind of mess before and will again.

Now, to get serious for a graph: Privacy is not a trivial matter. Most people do not yet begin to comprehend the risks and dangers in losing control of their personal digital identities; most probably have not even thought about having a personal digital identity. What’s more, stuff you put online is virtually permanent (barring an alien invasion that wipes out all stuff on the Net or something similar) and, with the Internet as we know it now having been around for awhile, I bet there is stuff out there I forgot I ever posted, searched for, or wrote.

If you don’t want to share stuff, don’t join Facebook. If you do, protect your privacy. Member caveo (that’s what the English-to-Latin online translator produced when I asked for “member beware”).

The much bigger questions are: What is your digital identity? Who has it? Who controls it?


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ilana diamant
May 19, 2010 1:53

Re:”Facebook = Evil. Quit Now or Die!”

That’s an evil title! But a good point too – “Facebook members do not own Facebook, Zuckerberg et al. do”.It’s easy to lose sight of that fact, given that FB is now considered an indispensible utility by some. Users can keep adjusting their privacy and other settings until forever but that doesn’t address the underlying issues of corporate owned data and closed-source design (just because independent developers can build FB apps, that doesn’t make FB open-source in the sense of being user-controlled)

May 19, 2010 10:47

Ilana, thanks for the thoughtful response.
I could not agree more re: corporate-owned data. I am not sure FB would ever say “it’s ours, we own it,” but that’s a fact right now. nGenera has discussed issues about privacy, digital identify, and data in several reports – including Leading in an Age of Unbounded Data and Pervasive Personal Identity: From Digital Footprints to Digital DNA and the Rich Data Self. What’s still unclear is who “owns” the digital data that compose my digital identity vs. who “controls” that data: individuals’ data are all over the place. Every time I opt in or sign up or buy something, my data are captured. I expect a complicated, perhaps contentious fight to ensue about ownership of what is essentially personal data; getting my digital identity under my control may well be impossible since I’ve volunteered it in many cases and because it makes my life easier if some other organizations have it. The idea that we now have a digital identity that has to be managed is just beginning to dawn on most people.

Thomas Gegenhuber
May 21, 2010 11:38

Matthew J
May 22, 2010 2:05

I agree with your assessment, but wanted to just add that your translator didnt give you a very meaningful phrase. member, while coming from latin, isnt latin. the word membrum meant limb. putting the verb into an imperative mood, i would suggest the phrase “citizen beware” which is “Civi Cave!”

Jun 3, 2010 16:19

Thanks. I should have used the pay translator, and should have known better!

Jun 3, 2010 16:20

Facebook Quit Day was a flop: http://tinyurl.com/2dgxagv. Is that really a surprise to anyone?

web design
Jun 6, 2010 0:29

Lol – you get me going. I really thought what up with facebook.

Aug 28, 2011 10:21

That’s the reason why a lot of people move to Google+. Google+ has social circle which they don’t share with each other unless you allow it. :)

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