Recent Links & Thoughts On Facebook

It has been over 18 months since I quit Facebook. The company is pervasive and influential and thus keeps generating news stories either directly or indirectly.

Apparently, those who decline to use Facebook or cellphones face a social stigma. I found this to be quite interesting.

I confess that I do miss certain social aspects of Facebook; I had access to conversations that would be nearly impossible (or decidedly inconvenient) in any other medium. I was “friends” with people that I respect very deeply – notably, Paul Randal and Bill Hill. Indeed, Bill described my quitting as petulant. That gave me a moment of pause to seriously consider my choice.

My reasons for leaving FB were rooted entirely in their lack of respect for privacy and these reasons ultimately outweighed the pleasure I received from those unique conversations.

…the idea that refusal is the only legitimate way to protest something that one thinks is problematic, unconscionable, unethical or immoral.

While I have zero love for Facebook, I stay on it because otherwise I’d miss out on 75 per cent of the invitations in my friends group…

– Alice Marwick, Microsoft Research

More interesting was that Marwick’s study suggested that shunning cellphones also received social punishment. I have a cellphone, but I barely use it. I hate the thing. I pay about $45 per month and I do not get even $5 worth of value from it. Even when my employer provided everyone with a free Windows Phone 7, I refused the offer. While it a very neat device, I can see that I won’t get any use from it that I consider worth the monthly expense.

If my cellphone cost no more than $10 per month, I would embrace the technology.

In Canada a study discovered that teenagers were likely to be more aware of privacy concerns on social media than older adults. They are also more likely to take greater risks online though. There is nothing new in pointing that what gets on the internet, stays on the internet…forever. There are already established tales of people suffering the consequences – intended or otherwise – from exposing their private lives online.

What really got me angry was the Slashdot posting about German news site Heise and their work about changing Facebook’s “like button” into a two-click confirmation process. You may not know this, but Facebook is tracking you via that button even if you have never signed-up for Facebook. This ought to outrage you – yet it is barely known. Furthermore, Facebook is now trying to blacklist Heise.

Here is a company giving its users more privacy and control. If you really want to “like” a given external web page on your Facebook profile, you still can. But other users do not get the stealth tracking data sent back to Facebook World Domination HQ.

I hope that this two-click confirmation catches on and becomes so popular that Facebook will be forced to accept it. Give users real choice and not illusory choice. That is all that I am asking for.

Heck, I wouldn’t rule out a return to Facebook if it were more open to real privacy controls.