This evening, I am starting to disentangle Facebook from my personal life. I have just finished reading a disturbing article about the ways Facebook gathers, stores, and utilizes the information I give it.
Some key points I gleaned:
- If you are not paying for a free service (like Facebook or Google), then you are the commodity being sold. In return for linking you to your friends and family, Facebook extracts payment in data - about who you are, what you do, websites you visit, and all the content you create and post to the Social Network. You no longer control any of this information, regardless of the "privacy settings" I'm sure you closely monitor. The new Facebook "ticker" is a glaring example of this.
- Facebook's "Open Graph" allows third-party, non-Facebook websites to report your online activity back to Facebook. If you browse to Facebook-connected site that utilizes Open Graph, your unrelated online activities may be published to the ticker on your friends' Facebook page. This information is retained as long as Facebook chooses to retain it. This is not the future, this is now: the Washington Post's "Social Reader" app reports what you read to all your friends without explicit consent. That's fine when you are reading an article about the farm subsidy debate, but what if your girlfriend notices you have been suddenly reading up on gonorrhea?
- If a website asks you to "connect with Facebook" don't do it. If the website requires you to "connect with Facebook" find another website. The more you "connect" with Facebook, the more information you are sharing with them and the more information Facebook will share with random people you don't know.
I am starting the process of disengaging my personal content from Facebook: my "status" and "likes", my opinions, my photos. I would like to share this with all of my friends, but I don't like the new strings attached. I will start posting "social networking" content and photos on Google+ rather than Facebook. Of course, for the time being, I will also put notifications up on my Facebook page.
Right or wrong, I trust Google over Facebook to do better by me and the content I create. When I engage with social media, I will make an effort to do so on Google+ rather than Facebook. I hope at least some of you will join me.
Add firstname.lastname@example.org to your Google+ circles and I'll add you back!
See you all on the flip side.