Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What’s Mine is NOT Up for Grabs

Sharon Wildwind

I am not in a good mood.

The social experiment failed. Today, I de-friended a bunch of people that I like a lot, and deactivated my Facebook account.

Three things pushed me over the edge.

First, I had set my preferences so that I would not see the messages like “Jane Doe is now friends with Betty Jones.” While I like Jane—after all, I did friend her—and don’t have a clue who Betty is, I figure that what goes on between the two of them is none of my business. Several weeks ago, the viewing format options changed. While I could still hide those messages on my Wall and Live Feed, I could not hide them when I grouped people into lists.

Granted, not being able to do that may be a technical deficiency on my part. There may well have been a way to turn them off in lists, but I couldn’t find it. I was being bombarded with dozens of messages like that every day. It was basically irritating. Who needs irritation on a daily basis?

The second thing was a little scarier. It appeared in an on-line article by Sarah Perez. The article was called What Facebook Quizzes Know About You.

Usually, I ignored, and turned off all of those quizzes. I don’t need to take a quiz to know that my favorite movie star is Paul Gross; that the hobbit I most admire Samwise Gangee; or that the vegetable I most resemble is broccoli. Life-altering realizations like that should be discovered by private introspection, preferably after a few glasses of good white wine, in the safety of my own home.

According to Ms. Perez, ignoring the quizzes and turning them off isn’t any protection. If my Facebook friends are taking those quizzes, then all of my information is available to the person who created the quiz. Who knows who that person might be?

The third point—the tipping point—came in an on-line article/video yesterday in which Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, was interviewed. Mr. Zuckerberg said, “People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time. . . . We view it as our role in the system to constantly be innovating and be updating what our system is to reflect what the current social norms are.”

Unlimited access to my information is not my social norm. I quit.

Granted, there are still approximately 349,999,999 other Facebook users out there who are blithely sharing everything from their home addresses to their entire educational and work history on line, so I won’t make any dent whatsoever in the pond. And yes, I do know that I haven’t really removed my information from Facebook. I’ve only deactivated it. As I logged out for the last time, Facebook assured me that, any time I care to use my existing login information, I can rejoin them at any time.

Roughly 12,000,000 of those remaining users are in Canada, and the Canadian government is not happy about Facebook, either. Back last summer a report from our Candian Privacy Commissioner found “serious privacy gaps in the way the [Facebook] site operates.” This included a clear violation of Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).

The problem is there is very little that any government can do to enforce laws on the Internet.
Quote for the week:
All violations of essential privacy are brutalizing.
~Katherine Fullerton Gerould, American writer (1879-1944)


Anonymous said...

I agree - and keep seriously thinking of coming off Facebook as well for the very same reasons! Interesting blog to make you think! Best - A

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I'm usually pretty pro-Facebook as a promotional tool, but I think their latest version of the application is their most annoying. I don't want all the clutter on my page! Like you, I don't want to know who is friending whom. Bleh.

I'm not getting rid of my account, but I'm hoping FB locks down different aspects of its app so professionals can better use it.

Mystery Writing is Murder
Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen

Sheila Connolly said...

Sometimes I wonder if Facebook is more about the process than the content. It's a form of collecting: let's see how many friends I can acquire! I have more friends than XYZ! In fact, I went in and friended all her friends!

But how many people do you want to share your innermost thoughts with? That should be your decision, not Facebook's.

Anonymous said...

Sheila, I'm realizing that it's not just about collecting friends. It's about collecting information to use as marketing tools.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if those of us who share a different vision for a social site could set one up and run it—in our copious spare time. Hmm, I think we'd have to name it, When Pigs Fly.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I deleted all my profile information several weeks ago. After reading your post, I took the ACLU quiz, then deleted my photo albums. Unfortunately, my date of birth stays no matter what. And, as you pointed out, deleted doesn't mean deleted. If you've no objection, I'll put a link to your blog post on Facebook for my "friends'" consideration.

Anonymous said...

Kathy, the blog is "out there" in the public view, so a link would be fine. Thanks for asking.


Marilynne said...

That is so scary. I'm deleting all personal information from my Facebook acct. (that I can) and putting up a link to your blog.

Beth Groundwater said...

My attitude with Facebook is that nothing should be on my profile, my status updates, my photo albums, or wall posts that I don't want on the front page of the newspaper. So, Facebook doesn't know my address, phone number, birthdate, or any of that other stuff I want to keep at least semi-private. However, I do want everyone on Facebook who has access to me to know about my book releases!

Sandra Parshall said...

My "personal information" available to everybody on FB consists of the titles of my books, my website address, and my blog address. The e-mail address I have up is supposedly visible only to "friends" but it's my spam-collecting address, in any case -- yahoo mail, not my personal e-mail. I cannot imagine being stupid enough to post my home address, phone number and other personal information. And nobody in the cybersphere needs to know my birthday. If you never put it forward, nobody can get it.

Sandra Parshall said...

Another thing: I have made people angry by saying this, but I'll say it again: It is extraordinarily unwise to put photos of innocent children on the internet. Do you really want your kids or grandkids to provide fodder for some pervert's fantasies? Do you want crazy people trying to track down those darling little ones? No adult has the right to violate a child's privacy and put him/her in danger.

Eleanor Andrews said...

The changes made to Facebook are for selling OUR information and it's not just FB! Twitter is doing it, too. Their new settings prevent us from blocking many tidbits of information.

And I agree these venues are good to announce news and upcoming releases. Coming from inside a pub house, I know these avenues are desired by the industry for authors to meet readers.

My ways of dealing with these changes are these:

1)I only put out information I don't mind finding on the front page of a gossip page!

2)I delete anything from my wall/profile (like I friend who and such) with some regularity.

3)Under privacy settings I can determine who can see my profile, wall, and friends.

4)On the publisher, status updates, and notes, I can choose who I want and don't want to see posts I put out. But again, I'm always mindful of #1 at all times!

5)I friend all who ask remembering when I wanted some friends too!

6)These socializing sites are great for connecting, networking, and meeting interesting people but these sites are also dangerous! I agree photos should be chosen with great care and with a watchful eye. You never know who will see them.

7)Personal info such as address, school attended and graduation dates, employer, and anything else that can be used to track you or yours can also be protected under privacy settings for safety sake!

In total, I can protect certain amounts/types of information, but I realize not all.

Eleanor Andrews

Anonymous said...

I am so glad to know that you guys are chintzy with personal information on-line. I think it's the only way to go.

VR Barkowski said...

I'm going to try this again with all the words this time.

While I agree with everything that's been said here, I think Pipl is a much scarier site than Facebook


It makes me crazy there's a place where someone can type in my name and not only get a full birthdate, but where I was born and a link to sources where they can buy additional information. Makes using a pseudonym very tempting.

Anonymous said...

That is a scary site. There are photos there that I deleted from the Internet a long time ago, and comments I made on chat lists or other Internet groups going back almost a decade.