10 reasons to leave Facebook…

If you’re looking for a New Year’s Resolution – have you considered leaving Facebook? There are many reasons to do so, and getting more compelling all the time – all it takes is a little resolution.

1) Privacy

Everyone should be aware that privacy is an issue with Facebook. So many people put so much ‘private’ information onto Facebook that the possibility that your private information, photos, stories etc might get known to a wider public should be obvious. We shouldn’t be shocked when bad things happen – and yet even Randi Zuckerberg, sister of Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg, still seemed surprised and upset when a ‘private’ family photograph she posted somehow made its way onto Twitter. It wasn’t hacked, scraped, leaked or anything nasty – it’s just that Facebook is designed that way. The private becomes public all too easily – ‘sharing’ means you lose control. If Randi had just emailed the pic to her family, or put it on a genuinely private site, none of this would have happened.

2) Real Names Policy

Facebook’s policy is that people should only ever use their real names – and this can have very bad consequences. There are many people for whom using real names is dangerous, from whistle-blowers to political dissidents, from victims of domestic abuse to people just wanting to harmlessly let off steam. And it’s not just in the extremes that it matters: forcing a real names policy can matter to almost anyone. It helps anchor your ‘online’ life to your ‘offline’ life – meaning that anyone wishing to take advantage of you, to manipulate you, to take information out of context etc, and link what they find out about you online to your offline existence. Real names policies are potentially deeply pernicious – and not only does Facebook have one, but it is ratcheting up its efforts to enforce it. Snitchgate, about which I blogged in September, was just one example, where they experimented with getting people to ‘snitch’ on their friends for not using their real names. For Facebook, a real names policy has value – it makes their data on you more valuable when they want to sell it to others – but for people, it is both limiting and risky.

3) Monetization

Facebook is a business, and in business to do just one thing: make money. What that means is that they want to make money from their assets – your data. The recent furore over Instagram’s altered terms of service was just one example – and in many ways it was typical. Instagram has access to a huge collection of photographs – and since Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion earlier in 2012, it has been looking for ways to make money out of those photographs. The internet community’s reaction to that change was dramatic – and Instagram quickly changed tack (or at least appeared to) but make no mistake, the issue will recur. Facebook will look to make money – since the far-from-stellar IPO, the pressure to make money has been growing. Facebook has to satisfy its shareholders first of all, its advertisers next, and its ‘users’ last of all. The users don’t provide money directly, after all – so Facebook has to make money from their data. That drive to make money means that what happens to you when your data is used is of very little consequence….

4) Profiling – and self-profiling

One of the best ways to describe Facebook is as a ‘self-profiling service’. Everything you put up on Facebook, every ‘like’ button you press, every silly game you play, every person you ‘friend’ (and every person that ‘friends’ you) helps build up that profile. The profiles are used primarily for advertising – but also to build up their database of profiles. Profiling is something that is risky in two diametrically opposite ways: if profiling is accurate, it impinges on your privacy, whilst if it is inaccurate it can mean that bad decisions are made for you or about you. What’s more, profiling data is particularly vulnerable – allowing far more accurate and dangerous forms of identity fraud and similar scams.

5) Facial recognition

Facebook loves facial recognition – and it’s not just a coincidence of names. Facial recognition allows them to make more and more links, which helps them to profile better, and also to anchor information in the ‘real’ world, just like their ‘real names policies. Their practices with facial recognition – including ‘automatically’ tagging photographs – may have been rebuffed in Europe on the grounds of data protection, but just as with the Instagram issue (see (3) above), make no mistake, it’s coming back. The risks will still be there – they’re inherent in the concept – but they’ll find a way to get what at least purports to be consent from users in order to satisfy the letter of the law.  Anyone who has put a photo of themselves on Facebook should be concerned.

6) You never know who’s watching

Most Facebook users imagine that the people who look at their pages are their ‘friends’, or perhaps their ‘potential friends’, and don’t consider who else might look at what they post – and there are vast numbers of other groups who will look. Those who are slightly less naïve might understand that their employers might look, or their potential employers – but what about insurance companies, looking to see if people are engaging in risky activities, or credit agencies wanting to make more ‘accurate’ assessments? Or the authorities, looking for people doing ‘bad’ things – or people who ‘might’ do bad things? Show some interest in anything political… again, the risks are both ways: accurate watchers finding out things you don’t want them to find out, inaccurate watchers making bad decisions based on incorrect assumptions.

7) Facebook is forever

Many users of Facebook start off ‘young’ – perhaps in age, but perhaps in naïveté. They put material up that they think is funny, or cool, and don’t think how it might look in the future. This doesn’t just mean the odd drunken photo being seen by a potential employer – it means pretty much everything you put on Facebook. There was a big story in September 2012 when people thought their old ‘private messages’ were being posted onto their timelines, and they were hugely upset.It wasn’t true: what was actually happening was that some of their old public posts, posts from a few years ago, were reappearing – and people had forgotten the kind of things that they used to post. What you want to be public one year, you might well wish to forget in a few year’s time: with Facebook, that’s close to impossible! These days you can delete your account – but even if you do, that may not be enough. Services like profileengine.com keep old Facebook profiles even when they’ve been deleted….

8) Monopoly

Facebook is proud that it has now got more than 1 billion users – which makes it pretty close to the only game in town. Monopolies are very, very rarely a good thing – and if Facebook becomes (or perhaps has already become) the default, that puts a huge amount of extra power in their hands. Effectively, they can do whatever they want, and we’ll still have to be there. That can’t be good – and shouldn’t be good, particularly is you really CAN leave, and really DON’T need to be on Facebook. There are alternatives….

9) Concentration

…and those alternatives offer a solution to another risk involved in Facebook. Facebook wants to be all things to all people – and that means all your data, all your links, all aspects of your life concentrated in one place. That means much more accurate profiling, but also much greater vulnerability. If Facebook knows everything about you, they have much more power over you – and their profiles become much more powerful, so if compromised, sold, hacked, given to the authorities, to some other ‘enemy’ of yours, they have much more potential for damage. What would be much better – though somewhat harder work – would be to use different services for different features. Use one provider for email, use twitter for mass communication, set up your own blog on a different provider, put your photos on your own website, play games on yet another and so forth. Much less risk – and much more freedom to get better services. Also, much less dependency…

10) Dependency – and bad habits…

The last reason I’m going to mention here is dependency. Many people seem to be becoming deeply dependent on Facebook. They use it for everything – and seem totally lost if it goes down. They can’t contact their real friends and relations – they haven’t even kept a record of their email addresses. That means they end up spending far too much time on Facebook – and get into lots of bad habits, habits that Facebook encourage. Too much sharing (which to Facebook sounds like blasphemy), too many pictures posted online, too much information given out (e.g. geo-location data) without a real thought to the consequences. If you leave Facebook, and instead set up particular systems for particular functions, you’re far less likely to become dependent – and you’re far less lost if one or other of those services goes down for some reason or other.

And if that’s not enough…

…there are many other reasons. One that matters to people like me is that the only way that Facebook will ever change in any meaningful way, the only way it will start to take users’ privacy and other rights seriously, is if it starts to lose users. If enough people start leaving, it will have to do something differently, and start to take us more seriously rather than just treat us as cattle to be herded and milked….

So why not do it? Make it your New Year’s Resolution: leave Facebook!

Here is a link to instructions as to how to delete your Facebook account. If you have the strength, go for the real ‘deletion’ rather than the ‘deactivation’ method. If you just deactivate, you’re leaving your data there for Facebook and their partners to exploit…..

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130 thoughts on “10 reasons to leave Facebook…

      • That’s an interesting question – I think it depends on who they are, and what the photo is. Maybe one way would be to have a little photo tagging policy, which can advise them of the risks. That, however, might be a bit over complex. I think I’ll have to think about this!

  1. 11) Suspicious Ads – as a side…

    …or as a main course, your choice. It is quite obvious to most people that have some experience on this devil box that the ads on Facebook’s sidebar lead to websites carrying illegal activities; such activities include knock-off products, services provided by unregistered/unqualified individuals, scam projects promising considerable amounts of money in exchange for services without a contract etc. The downside is not the fact that they are misleading, ie advertising something they will never provide; the downside is that by clicking on any of those ads (either accidentally or by mere curiosity) you are opening Pandora’s box.

    The least you can get is a trojan horse, the worst is a summons to the court – how does one prove they DID NOT buy those fake Louboutins when their IP at the time is all over the illegal vendor’s logs (mind you your IP shows a print for every frame/iframe, every floating dhtml element on that website not to mention how many hits the path from Facebook to that website provided, as it goes through a number of other websites and filters to register you have made that click and as such Facebook needs to get paid!).

    You better watch that mouse!

    • Don’t count on it. My partner ‘deleted’ his Facebook account three years ago and he still gets notifications of friend requests – you can’t get to his page, but his info is still there and still being thrown up by the network to anyone Facebook matches as a potential contact.

      • Theoretically – according to a Facebook bigwig I discussed this with at a conference – things have changed since then. They’ve now brought in ‘real’ deletion, which wasn’t in place even a year ago. How real that is is another matter…

  2. 1) – Not much on the internet is private, even if you think it is.

    2) – The biggest ‘similar’ alternative right now is G+ – which also has a real names policy.

    3) – You’ll be hard-pressed to find a social networking site that ISN’T at least somewhat focused on monetisation. Social networks need many many huge servers to run – which cost a lot of money. They have to make it somehow, and the most obvious and convenient way is utilising their userbase for advertising.

    4) – Back to G+ again – which is even moreso. Who’s the largest ad-serving body on the internet? Google. They do profiling like nobody’s business.

    5) – G+ has this too, and I’m sure any other social network which has the ability to include face-tagging will use it because it’s another way to encourage socialising.

    6) – See #1

    7) – This has the potential to happen on any social networking site.

    8 ) – Considering the main alternative right now is G+, which is owned by Google, moving to the current most viable alternative is a pretty much ‘out of the frying pan into the fire’ situation. Moving to a smaller alternative means a smaller userbase – which moots the whole point of it being social.

    9) – Every Social Networking site has profiles. It’s one of the core components. How safe your profile is from potential damage only hinges on how much of your personal information you fill in – not which site it’s on.

    10) – People are social creatures and we respond psychologically to action and reward (a la Pavlov’s dogs) – we post something, someone acknowledges with a comment or a like, and that’s our reward that makes us keep doing it. Any social network will have the same reward system and the potential for ‘addiction’ – if there’s no ability to interact then it’s not a social network.

    I dislike Facebook because of their shady security flaws that take advantage of the ignorant. Those flaws are, in my opinion, the only valid reason to leave Facebook exclusively over another social network – the entire site has more security holes and hackable content than any of the other large social networks. I follow a hacker on Twitter who used to document every security faux-pas with every Facebook update in intricate detail – he wasn’t doing it to be malicious, but to say ‘ok, since the update, here are the ways Facebook has put your private data at risk’. He now actually works for Facebook on security, hehe. But like I said, I don’t believe anything on the internet is sacred. if you want 100% control and ownership of your content, don’t put it on the internet.

    • I don’t disagree with much of that – and will try to reply properly later – but the point for me is not that we need to find an alternative social networking service, but an alternative TO social networking sites. I don’t think there’s much difference between Facebook and G+, for example, as you say…

      • In which case, this isn’t so much a ’10 reasons to leave Facebook’ post as a ’10 reasons to reconsider social networking’ post. :) Social Networking is a lovely thing in concept. Many of us live so focussed on the internet now that those sites provide excellent ways of keeping in quick and easy contact with friends and family. Unfortunately, *because* it’s the internet, I fear all of the above will always be the case and there’s not much avoiding it, leaving people with the choice of deal with it, or don’t ever sign up.

      • Again, I don’t disagree much – but right now, for most people, social networking IS Facebook. And you’re right, it’s often a question of finding ways to ‘deal with it’…

  3. Interesting points, but is the issue really the network or individual choices? Recognizing you’re in the public marketplace – which with a billion users or so Facebook is clearly public – you need to approach this and, as noted above, ALL on the Internet is potentially exposed to the public. I work with lots of folks on media and communications, and one professor colleague said it best: if you don’t want it on the front page of the newspaper, don’t put it online. On the other hand, all of these tools have real value in opening the conversation and connecting folks in ways that weren’t there before. In a society that bases a significant amount of our interaction on some form of commercial level (meet friends at a restaurant – commercial, go for a weekend with the family somewhere – commercial). The trick is balancing value. I carefully manage the information I share – no mention of vacations and trips until after the face, for instance – but have no problem putting out something that could be found elsewhere by a simple search. Facebook is targeting me with ads? So what. Facebook is learning about me to further refine the ads it sends me? I still have the ability to decide if I respond or ignore.

    Personal responsibility, personal choices. Yes, Facebook may make it challenging to manage some of what it does, but the user also has the responsibility to manage for themselves, and also to make smart choices in what to share. If that’s still an issue, by all means don’t use the service. What concerns me much more are the things we don’t know and have no control over that have impact. The in the background data mining and what happens with that information. The same things Facebook does others are doing, without our knowledge and often any consent.

    Get value from Facebook? Use it. Be responsible in your choices. Recognize that the Internet – all of it – can and does have the same issues as Facebook.

    • I don’t disagree with any of that in theory – but in reality, for vast number of users, though they do have ‘personal choices’, those choices are largely illusionary, or misleading, or between options that are equally unpalatable. It’s fine for an educated, informed user with sufficient time and understanding to work their way through the choices, but for many that’s just about impossible. When I teach about privacy to school-aged children, for example, they are often deeply shocked to find out what actually happens – and by that time they’re already so far down the Facebook path that it’s all but impossible to extricate themselves.

      And I do agree, almost all of the issues outlined above – well, many of them at least – apply to pretty much all of the internet, though not to the same degree, not with the same concentration or focus, or indeed with the same motivation to increase that concentration and focus. Decentralisation would help a lot – as, as you seem to imply, would a more savvy approach.

      Mind you, don’t get me wrong – I don’t want Facebook to disappear, I’d rather it found a way to continue and at the same time respect users a bit more. As I suggest near the end, that is only likely to happen if people start to leave. If they do – and I believe they might – then Facebook could evolve into something quite different.

  4. The anti Facebook brigade needs to pipe down. It was Twitter, not Facebook, that spread this picture. Yes, it came from Facebook but if you essentially shared a picture to ‘friends’ then what they do thereafter is their choice. If you don’t wish them to have that choice, don’t email them. If you don’t wish people to re-post your pictures, don’t post them. Yes, she’s a little hypocritical, but must less so than those who campaign for privacy and then complain at an individual who dislikes having her family pics shared all over twitter without their (explicit) consent.

    • I’m not sure which individuals you’re talking about, but I’m certainly not attacking Randi Zuckerberg over this – but to blame Twitter is a touch disingenuous! Twitter doesn’t purport to be private – all tweets are public, and explicitly so.

  5. If you are bothered enough by privacy to write a blog encouraging people to leave Facebook as a New Years Resolution whilst ignoring thethe fact that Twitter is a public forum, then I would suggest it is yourself who is disingenous. Would you encourage people to leave Twitter if a post they made but then deleted was re-tweeted etc in the meantime?
    This incident shows (as you yourself said) that if you post to those who you don’t know, you lose control of what happens to your data. Further, this particular case shows it was Twitter, not Facebook, that took the picture to the wider public domain.
    I’m very new to Twitter so may well stand corrected, but it wasn’t my understanding that “all tweets are public, and explicitly so”.

    • Have a look at Twitter’s Terms of Service:

      http://twitter.com/tos

      All tweets really are public – it’s a distribution system more than a ‘private’ social network. That’s why you’ll find a lot more privacy advocates on Twitter than on Facebook – it’s a more direct and clear system. There isn’t an illusion of privacy – at least not a general one.

    • Facebook attempts to blur the boundaries of public/private deliberately by a pretense to be about “friends” and “personal relationships” while at same time data mining. That is a more dangerous activity and misrepresentation.

      Twitter is more intuitively obvious about being public. Following is more about the topics people are interested in than a pretense at friendship. People use it precisely because it is public. People use facebook because they think it is personal.

  6. Only ten ? How about Facebook hides it’s taxable income offshore ? The money it earns from profiling it’s users and selling to advertisers is shipped to a more tax lenient regime increasing the tax burden on everybody. Yup FB is like Starbucks without the crappy coffee

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/dec/23/facebook-tax-profits-outside-us

    Or one Ive just found : Why Facebook Makes Me Feel Like A Loser http://shkspr.mobi/blog/2012/12/why-facebook-makes-me-feel-like-a-loser/

  7. If you do delete your facebook, first be sure to untag everything, delete all posts and private messages etc first (there are some scripts that can help speed this up because FB don’t make it easy to bulk remove anything). Also, update all fields with useless crap.

    It is the cross referencing that is valuable to them. They get users to do the valuable work of building and maintaining correct links between info. When you unlink things they can’t know if it is because the link was wrong in the first place.

    Basically, they won’t really delete your account anyway, but you can make the data worthless beforehand. Without links, it is just useless noise.

  8. I have also thought of an interesting campaign to do with the EU/UK Tax avoidance for people who want to keep their FB accounts. I call it blue monday. Blue because FB tax avoidance makes us sad.

    Basically, every monday, every week, people disable their accounts for 2 days. Even people who want to keep their FB accounts can handle missing out monday and tuesdays. Most FB social activity is towards end of week and weekend anyway.

    People keep this up until FB pays sensible tax in European countries. Sends a clear message each week from Europe.

    Normally clicktivism is ineffective and easy to ignore without offline action to back it up, but in this case as FB is only online and action can be achieved by clicking disable account, it could actually work as a type of action.

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    • I’d be happy to be given an example – I generally check my spelling very carefully. I do hope you realise that I’m English, not American, and so use English spelling (e.g. ‘favourite’ rather than ‘favorite’)…

  10. Thanks for the article. I deactivated about about two months ago. I thought I would could go cold turkey, but I still had check information people would only post on there. Even less time on it brings me relief. I think just being “activated” caused me stress because it was like a shop is always “open”–you can’t take a break from people emailing, poking, posting, and tagging. I couldn’t rest even when I didn’t go on, so deactivating helped in this regard. I want to mention about privacy that now my Outlook has changed it’s features. Now your facebook profile is linked to your email address. I notice when people send me an email, that their profile photo comes up. Thank goodness my profile is closed because I would have sent my profile photo to every employer I emailed from this address. Considering the kinds of photos people choose to put up, I would think that this could create a problem. I hope they change this feature soon.

    • I fear that unless more people react to their practices, the opposite is the case: they’ll look for more ways to link your Facebook profile to all of your activities on the internet. That’s the underlying agenda of Facebook: they want to have a monopoly over you. They want you to log on to as many other services as they can through Facebook rather than directly. They want you to use Facebook to send messages, Facebook to search – see my posts on the new Facebook ‘Graph Search’ feature (http://paulbernal.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/facebook-graph-search-its-about-the-data/) and (http://paulbernal.wordpress.com/2013/01/17/facebook-graph-search-privacy-issues/).

      The more things you use Facebook for, the more of your data they have, and the more opportunities they have to use your data. And, more importantly, the more you come to ‘rely’ on Facebook, and find it difficult to leave….

      • People got a sudden taste of the downside of a FB monopoly this week when a bug in facebook tools such as buttons etc redirected a lot of facebook integrated sites to a facebook error page including big ones like cnn making the original sites inaccessible. This affected many businesses as well as their users, even though the users were not on facebook!

        That is security feudalism in action. You must trust your data overlords not to do something stupid as well as ‘be nice’.

  11. Great article, I just deleted from Facebook. 14 days to go.
    I sometimes wonder what happens to all the “stuff” that has been created and transmitted via Internet, from ancient emails to zombie websites, unlinked pages etc.

      • From a technical point of view, you can make the data less useful to them by unlinking everything before ‘deleting’ your account.

        It is the connections between different data items that is most valuable to them (they let the public do the work of categorising the data to make it valuable) and hence also the most dangerous to you.

        They don’t know for example if you untagged a photo because it was wrongly tagged in the first place. There are also some scripts around to help with wall scrubbing, untagging etc in bulk (obviously facebook don’t like to make such things easy themselves).

        If you just delete your account without wrecking the data first then it has not really gone as it is still useable to facebook.

  12. Extremely helpful article! I was thinking about signing up for Facebook so I could contact a friend who (apparently) doesn’t have an email adress, but now I think I won’t do it. Privacy is, for me, a big concern, and I’ve got so many other things to keep me busy that I don’t think I could handle Facebook. Maybe I’ll print out this article and show it to my friend to convince him to quit.

  13. I have just quitted Facebook and felt awesome. Why they are taking 14 days or more for doing that ?Why can’t they just delete it as soon as we requested for it like Google does.

    • I found myself saying to myself one day “Jeez, facebook is not social media at all, it’s a social problem. It’s like everyone decided the best place to be social is a mall with robot guards taking notes over your shoulder, that’s insane”. I couldn’t forget the thought and then closed my account shortly after.

  14. Real name policy? Screw them! I had a Facebook account and I used whatever name I wanted. Heck, I even changed it three times to some imaginary-made-up names and that was that. Hey, just like I’m about to leave a bogus email account on this silly webpage so I can leave a comment. Yeah, there’s your privacy right there. Kind of hypocritical don’t you think? As far as Facebook goes, what were they going to do? Send over the Facebook Cops to my place? What? Take me to court? Oh, wait! Cancel my Facebook account?! Fine. Go right ahead and delete it. I won’t cry. I won’t lose any sleep.

  15. I have been reading from those of you who have quit face book. Please tell me how to do it. I have been trying for days. and they dont help me to leave.O nce they v got you there is no escape.
    Rita

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  21. excellent post. here are seven reasons I want to leave the abomination behind:

    Seven Reasons to leave Facebook
    1. It’s impulsive and compulsive
    2. It is random and trivial…when was the last thing meaningful you did on Facebook?
    3. encourages voyeurism and narcissism, and attention seeking behavior
    4. the thumbs up principle disgusts me–just another friendly tracking cookie to spam you with things related to what you “like”–besides didn’t siskel and ebert do this over two decades ago with the thumbs up?
    5. you really don’t know how secure your information is, even if they tell you it’s safe. It’s a money maker, and information is power for the shareholders.
    6. it is a cop out for real time relationships–instead of making a phone call or even a trip down the street to a friend, you can passively sigh and see how everyone is doing and not be able to say a word.
    7. Being a former librarian, and information science professional by trade, I studied a lot about the Freedom to Read act, the right to privacy, and am infuriated when gov’t and businesses make cute little loopholes to gain access to people’s information.

  22. I left Wastebook just under a year ago now, and it was the best move i ever made! It really is the “Devils Playground” It will and can take over your life if you let it! I decided to stop letting it. I could go on but will probably run out of characters here.

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  25. If you have to use your real namew hich is a farce, why are there so many young kids with nasty names or names that arent theirs my daughter uses a silly name so how can you say you have to use real names.

  26. I think the issue for me is you are not participating in real life- you are merely watching other people from your laptop/phone…and in my case, getting envious of the exciting lives they were living! How much better is a friendship that relies on face-to-face time? The quality of friendships that require a real effort far outweighs the weird and token comment left on a wall or photo.

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  44. Hi Paul

    Good post and thanks for the information other commenters gave, the thing is I use an alias name as oppose to my real name due to fact that I have experienced very bad bullying and stalker issues, I wanted an online presence where I could lessen that, not everyone who uses Facebook with a different name is bad, now after nearly two years on Facebook I gotta come off, so I had copy and past all my ‘Facebook Notes’ to a storage device and delete all my pics, it’s so unfair what about law enforcement officers who want privacy and use a different name even transgender people or people fleeing abuse, or just want a separate network online to the one they have offline. The fact of the matter though it really sucks my life existed before Facebook and it will hopefully exist after.

    ‘Freedom comes whens you learn to let go
    Creation comes when you learn to say No’

    The Power Of Goodbye
    Madonna

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