Friday, 14 May 2010

Facebook Privacy Issues

Facebook downplays privacy crisis meeting was a headline from the BBC News that has caught my eye just now. De-activating my Facebook account took me a fair bit to work out. The decision to do this had been brewing for a while. I simply felt I wasn't really using the service correctly. I would like to state that I have nothing against Facebook, personally. I just feel that the basic premise of keeping in touch with friends and family has been rather swamped by all the other things it consists of. The privacy issue was one which did concern me somewhat. Mashable Blog has just written a thought-provoking post entitled "Facebook Exodus Planned for May 31st;Will you Quit?

Pot calling kettle black?

The idiom above may have sprung to your mind. You are probably thinking "Janet, how come you write a blog and you are on Twitter, so anybody can read what you write?? That is so public! What's the difference between writing on a blog or on Twitter or on Facebook?"

Well, I can choose what to write here, I am responsible for my content. Twitter is used for my professional development and to keep me in contact with the exciting ELT world. On FB, there are too many variables, too many 3rd party applications and it just seemed too confusing and complicated. Facebook's privacy policy has "50 different settings and 170 options". That seems way too many options for someone like me, who just wants a simple life!! This article from BBC News about Managing your privacy on Facebook is also interesting reading.

A Case for Facebook?
This excellent post from Graham Stanley's blog-efl certainly made me reflect on why keeping FB is important in the technology-based world of the 21st century. The article is called Private or Public? Has Facebook changed the privacy game? It certainly provides great food for thought.

As one of the moderators on the IATEFL Learning Technologies forum, I started a topic called "Twitter or Facebook:which one do you prefer? The thread received a lot of comments and it was interesting to read everyone's opinions both for and against these two sites.

Did You Know?
To my friends and acquaintances, who were following me on FB, I am sorry that my page is no longer there. Before I de-activated, you might not be aware that some of your faces (4 )came up saying that you would miss me and asking me if I was really really sure I wanted to opt out. Your profile pictures were urging me to reconsider my decision!! Did you know that this is an emotional tactic to keep me within the community? Four of you should know who you are. If you don't, it means that a random robot must have chosen you ?

Any thoughts and comments would be really appreciated. I am not an expert on social media, but I am fascinated to know where it's all heading... Did I do right? Or have I blotted my chances for gaining a future job? What's your opinion?


blog-efl said...

A very interesting post, Janet, and thanks for mentioning my blog post too.

Have you found an alternative? I mean, a site that allows you to connect to family, friends, colleagues and keep in touch as easily? I haven't found anything that lets you do what Facebook does or works as well as it does for this.

I think you know where I stand :)

There are things I don't like about Facebook, but I do find it very useful tool. I consider it that - just one tool in many and it's only useful because so many people use it. It is where people are. Its value depends on other people being there, so if lots of people like you deactivate accounts, then its value decreases.

It'll be interesting to see what happens. A couple of colleagues of mine deactivated theur Facebook accounts and then within 3 months they were both back - they felt they were missing out on something.

I have to say the way they use FB has changed - they have cut back on the friends they have and are choosy about what they share.

All very interesting - I understand and respect you for deciding to do this, but I think I'll definitely be sticking with Facebook, at least until something better comes along.

Janet Bianchini said...

Hi Graham

Thank you very much for your response, which I value a lot. I agree with you that maybe only Facebook can offer what it does.

I like your blog post because it argues the case for Facebook in a very rational manner and that is why I included it in my post, so that there would be a balanced argument.

I should have pointed out that deactivating my account is not the same as deleting my account. Somehow, deleting my acount did seem a bit too drastic. To delete = gone forever. Another term for it is "Facebook suicide". I have just read a very interesting article from the Telegraph - and I'll bear it in mind if and when I make my final decision.

I will leave it until August 10th to see what will happen next. As you mentioned, 3 months seems to be a good indication of knowing the general direction of feelings. So, I will be reading and observing what happens with Facebook over the next 12 weeks and a part of me, does want it to have a positive outcome. Another part, however, keeps gnawing away at me internally...

August 10th's blog post will reveal all. Will I be eating my words or not? We shall see.

All the best


Anne Hodgson said...

Dear Janet,

Food for thought!!!

Not knowing whether people or robots are communicating with you is indeed very scary. I didn't send one, so if you got one from me then that was a robot.

I've asked some of my colleagues who use FB and that's their main source of informal networking and blog following. Twitter seems more "faceless", which is strange.

I find that I've got too many FB "friends" and sort of regret freinding people I don't know, because of the people I do know, like old classmates, whom I never would have found otherwise.

Other people, like family, I don't "friend", trying for a bit of data protection.

A lot of people are going to LinkedIn and Xing for professional networking. Are you on those networks?



I've toyed with the idea of deleting my account and even with starting a new one solely for friends and family. The problem for me is that I actually get HUGE solace, being so far away from them, in seeing their baby pictures or even their random comments that I can never bring myself to shutting it down... I don't really know what to do to be honest, I think the commercialization of FB is the thing I hate the most and am writing about this at the moment.


Janet Bianchini said...

Dear Anne

Thank you for your comments. It's good to know what other people are thinking in order to form a reasoned opinion of this subject.

I am not on LinkedIn or Xing. This is because I would not be able to keep up with the extra networking involved. I feel it's difficult to really get to know so many people (apparently 150 is maximum number for any form of meaningful relationship).

I'm sticking with Twitter, my blog and various fab Ning groups, which I try to keep up with. These all keep me incredibly busy and "au fait" with what is going on in the ELT world, which I love.



Janet Bianchini said...

Hi K

Great to have your input here! Thank you.

I agree that the commercialisation of FB is someting which is very off-putting. If the powers that be actually decide to go back to basics, ie keeping things really nice and simple, as it was when FB originally started, then that would be worth re-considering my options, definitely.

Somehow, I think FB has grown a bit too massive to backtrack on this, but who knows? If they actually listen to what people are saying at the moment, they might have to change their terms of practice.



Anonymous said...

I agree with you!

I think I will leave Facebook soon, for 2 reasons:

1) Personally, I find it too time consuming and it doesn't really add value to my life.
2) Facebook behavior is unethical and dishonest. And I don't feel safe with them.

The only thing that prevents me from leaving is my connections. In other words, networking. This is the only thing that interests me.
If I want to keep in touch with my family, I just give them a call or use Skype, so no big deal.

What really pisses me off is the fact that now I'm a pissed off user. Why should it be that way?
I don't mind being targeted for ads, I understand Facebook has to make money. But this is going too far.
Facebook is not reliable, they abuse people's good will and think they can decide how you should deal with YOUR privacy.

Anyone that joins Facebook will assume that it's a closed network, right? But it isn't. if you don't pay attention your data will be out there. So it's inconsistent and deceiving.

Did you know that, for example, if you post "Haha, you look like you work for the CIA", that post will show up with your name in some page called CIA on the Facebook world, just because it has that word on it? And that page is PUBLIC! So your post is out there without even knowing it.

Whether I care or not about privacy, that's something that I should decide. Facebook tricky settings don't give me a choice.

This is not the future I want to see for the social web. It's not a healthy one, for sure.

popps said...

He he he he he.
(sorry, i had to gloat)

Janet Bianchini said...

Dear Anonymous

Thank you for commenting. I can understand how you feel. It's interesting to see everybody's different viewpoint here.

I have to admit, the video inside Graham Stanley's post in my link to his blog, makes a very compelling argument FOR Facebook as something we need for the future in terms of staying connected globally. It's up to each individual to make a choice as to whether it is the best way or not.

A lot of universities and schools have their own dedicated private Facebook groups for students to discuss all sorts of subjects and opinions. That seems to be a very good use of the service and a lot of shyer students apparently take a more active role in their studies as a result.

As I stated from the beginning, I'm curious to see how things evolve.

Janet Bianchini said...

Hi Chris

No problems! I respect the fact that you have your opinion and that is good for a debate on such issues!

Sue Lyon-Jones said...

Interesting post & comments.

I'm pretty much in agreement with Graham on this one, so I'm not going to repeat what he's already said.

Although the spotlight seems to be firmly fixed on Facebook at the moment, I suspect that Facebook is no better or worse than a lot of other social media tools and platforms; it just attracts more attention due to its size and visibility.

I've stumbled across posts in Google search results that I've written on "walled garden" forums in the past, and I've also been spammed mercilessly on an email address I set up for an education Ning which was a supposedly private forum.

I agree that the hoops you have to jump through to lock down your Facebook account are a pain, but if you want to retain a presence on there, then at the moment it would seem to be the only option.


Janet Bianchini said...

Hi Sue

Thanks very much for adding to this discussion. I appreciate that Facebook is a site that is not unlike other sites in terms of what can leak out, as you highlighted regarding "walled comments".

I do feel torn as I feel I am somehow "missing out" on what is happening in the bigger picture. I also feel a bit guilty about seeming to "jump ship", so to speak, during "rough seas".