Much has been said of late regarding Facebook’s blatant disregard for the privacy of its users. It’s actually more a blatant disregard of users in general, but we should not be utterly surprised. Big corporations (of which Facebook is one) have grown increasingly complacent regarding customer service, and they are only out for themselves and how much money they can make. And hey – this is America – if you can make money, more power to you, but you can only shaft customers for so long before the well dries up. Right now, despite terrible policies and terrible press, Facebook still has a leg up, because it’s a hub of communication and it’s a little impractical not to participate.
Amidst the buzz about Facebook’s privacy changes, I recognized it as a money-grab and actually kind of evil, but it didn’t raise great personal concern. I am involved in and enjoy social networking, and while Facebook has been an afterthought to me for a while, I would never have put any of my information online in the first place if I was not OK with that information being public. Therefore, all my Facebook settings allowed “Everyone” to see my page – as much of it as they desired. I presume that most of the population could not care less about my hobbies or pictures of my last vacation. However, if someone found my page through a friend or a web search and found it interesting enough to waste time viewing, then I wasn’t going to stop them.
I don’t play Farmville or Mafia Wars (and I don’t understand why anyone WOULD, but obviously they DO), so I was not concerned about third party applications accessing my information. Anytime I see a stupid quiz on my feed or get an invitation to any other such nonsense, I block the applications anyway. And I’ve been pretty selective with the things that I “like” and the groups that I join.
I use Facebook to contact people I do not otherwise interact with, to post the seldom status update (which I guarantee you I merely copied to Facebook from my Twitter), and occasionally to plan an event or post some pictures. Of course, the last few times I tried to post any pictures, that feature was broken, so I haven’t even been able to use that. (I guess that feature doesn’t make Facebook any money, so they’re in no hurry to fix it.) Oh, and my blog does update to Facebook via RSS, for the few people who read it there instead of on the actual website or on a Google Reader, etc.
I generally only go to Facebook in the first place if I get an email notification that someone has messaged me, written on my wall, etc., or to wish someone a “Happy Birthday.” But in these visits over the last several days, I’ve noticed an annoying box popping up, imploring me to officially “Like” all the things that I’ve mentioned in my interests in my profile. I ignored it the first few times (as I make it my policy to ignore all stupid boxes on websites that randomly pop up in my face when I am trying to look at something else), but this morning, I clicked on it just to make it stop getting in my way.
As I suspected, this box wanted me to officially “Like” 57 pages worth of musicians, books, movies, etc. that I had mentioned in my profile. Of course, they also wanted me to “like” things that didn’t even exist, because they were phrases from sentences I had used when talking about the musicians and books and movies that I like. (Is the population so dumbed down that they can’t even read complete sentences in a Facebook profile? If it’s not a clickable link, the general public no longer comprehends it?)
Naturally, I had no desire to turn my Facebook page into one huge advertisement, and I rather enjoy complete sentences, so I wanted to leave my profile as it was. There was no option to do that, however – that would have been much too user-friendly and convenient. So, instead, I went and manually un-checked all 57 boxes, so they wouldn’t turn into links on my profile (a link that would then, therefore, have access to all of my information).
Once I had done that, Facebook quickly prompted me that if I went through with that, I would be deleting all of the information from my profile. So, basically: “Hey, Facebook user – do this our way, swear your allegiance to all of these pages, help us make some advertising dollars, or we’re going to wipe out your thoughtfully crafted profile data.” Well, I certainly wasn’t going to succumb, so I let them wipe it all out. So, my Facebook profile, which is supposed to be a little snapshot of my life, no longer functions as that. There are a few pages linked of some of my favorite musicians, but it’s no longer a complete list. My hobbies, books, etc. are all gone. If you want to know those things about me, I guess you’ll now have to ask me in person. Or get Twitter.
So, I have a message for Facebook, which I have edited for content and language, and now simply reads:
Up yours, you corporate harpies.
I also have a message for MySpace. You were once the hub of social networking, and for my part, I always found your user interface much more enjoyable, and your service to independent musicians was laudable. However, you went down the slippery slope and let the scum of the earth take up residence on your site. Then, you went further down that slope when you felt pressure to keep up with Facebook, and in so doing, adopted all of their most revolting characteristics – namely, those insufferable applications. So, here’s your big moment. If you want to redeem yourself and stop being the butt of jokes, seize upon the moment of Facebook’s arrogant stupidity and do something revolutionary like catering to the consumer. Get rid of the apps, swear to never EVER allow Farmville on your site, get rid of the junk mail and the spammers, and show us you care about little things like user privacy, and we’ll all come flocking back to you, reveling in your music player and the ability to design our own html. Here’s your big chance and you better take it quick.
And then, since MySpace undoubtedly will not listen to me, I have something else to pass along to you, dear readers. The Consumerist (which, as you might have guessed, looks out for the consumers) has been reporting on Facebook’s shenanigans for quite some time. Today, they posted about a new social networking software, set to debut at the end of the summer. Diaspora, as it’s called, is being designed by four programmers at NYU, with the promise of making sure that you own your own data, and you can even host it on your own server (or use theirs, in a similar manner to WordPress). Before you dismiss it out of hand, it might interest you to know that, as of the time of this posting, they’ve already raised over $100,000 in support of their cause via Kickstarter, more than ten times their goal.
So, go ahead, programmers. Do us proud and stick it to the man. We’re ready and waiting and will support you. Just make sure you stay true to your original oath to your customers, instead of getting all power-hungry and greedy like the whore-mongers of Facebook.