The removal of my information from Facebook is exactly what I wanted to achieve. The reason for that is simple: I am sick and tired of the way Facebook treats, or rather mistreats, my privacy. Other companies do their best to take away from us as much as they can (e.g., Google), but no respectable company is going as far as Facebook in their constant derision of what the concept of privacy means.
The problems start with one essential fact most people fail to notice when registering: anything you put on Facebook is owned by Facebook. For example, when I upload a photo to Flickr I can choose what rights to claim over it (you can claim a copyright; I claim a Creative Commons license); with Facebook, on the other hand, the photo is Facebook's. If they want to sell it or do whatever they want to, they can and probably shall.
Then there's the constant struggle to keep oneself up to date with Facebook's privacy settings. These tend to change on a regular basis, and when they do they tend to default on the less careful side. One needs to be truly careful to avoid their personal information from being exposed to the whole wide world: the most basic example there is the way your Facebook profile, including the list of your Facebook friends who have no saying on the matter, is open game to search engines by default.
My decision to quit Facebook here and now came as a result of two recent developments that broke this camel's back:
- As The Guardian reveals here, it turns out that iPhone and Android Facebook users have been uploading their phone contacts into Facebook's servers for a while now. This means that if your Facebook friend has an iPhone running the Facebook app, and if they were foolish enough to choose to sync their contacts online (at least in the past this used to be the default), then the phone number and address of yours they had stored elsewhere on the phone will be available to Facebook, too. The most interesting and scary aspect of this tragedy is that you, the person whose details are exposed, do not have any saying in this.
- This week Facebook came up with a new feature that allows users to group their friends. This is actually a nice feature, as it allows you to separate between friends from work, with whom you want to maintain a certain type of relationship, and friends with whom you like to have orgies on Saturday nights, with whom you maintain a totally different kind of relationship; keeping your day job would mean that separating the two into separate domains has its benefits.
However, Facebook cannot do everything right. An extra bonus of this feature is that your friends can now enroll you to Facebook groups without acquiring your approval first. As this example from PC World shows, that can quickly lead to one finding oneself a proud member of the pro-pedophile North American Man Boy Love Association.
I have decided that my life would be better with me relaxed and out of this race. Sure, I will lose touch with a few friends with whom Facebook has been my main communication conduit, but I am sure that over time better alternatives can be found; keeping in touch with someone should never mean sacrificing one's privacy to the whole world (and to greedy businesses) on the way. As it is, if you read this blog then you know how to keep in touch.