Sunday, June 06, 2010

Quit Facebook Day ...



Monday May 31st was designated as 'Quit Facebook Day' by a movement championed by two ex-Facebook users from Toronto, Joseph Dee and Matthew Milan, who insist that Facebook doesn't have the user's best intentions at heart and does not offer fair choices.

They built a website (QuitFacebookDay.com) to inform people about their movement and managed to get commitments from approximately 27,000 users to quit Facebook.

They have also attracted media attention, as the hot topic of the past few weeks has been the changes that Facebook introduced to its privacy settings, which are ‘opt-out’ based. This means the new privacy settings are the default for all users, and you actually need to go through a series of steps to opt-out of them.

A group of computer enthusiasts from Califorinia say that there as many as “170 options and 50 clicks to actually lock down your Facebook profile."

As a result there is a growing general consensus that Facebook management seeks to serve advertisers worldwide with little regard for its users’ wishes.

The new settings enable marketers to get more information on the Internet habits of Facebook users, and provide even more sophisticated targeting of these users.

Clearly, millions of well-informed users across the world would be concerned regarding this ‘sharing’ of their personal information and interests, and it’s up to them to decide whether or not to use Facebook.

According to a recent poll in the U.K. regarding privacy concerns, 30 percent of users said they were "highly likely" to quit Facebook, while another 30 percent said it was "possible" they would quit and 16 percent said they have already stopped using Facebook!

But, is this just a ‘storm in a tea cup’? Are 27,000 users far too few compared to some 400 million using the service? Facebook seems to think so. Officials said that more than 10 million people have joined since the privacy settings were changed last year, and half of all of Facebook’s users have adjusted their settings.

So what’s next in the ‘Facebook Privacy Battle’? Quit Facebook Day has passed, but the debate is not going away any time soon. Surely, Facebook needs to consider valid points like making it’s new setting opt-in - permission based- by default rather than opt-out.

And, although Facebook is a company and it provides us with a valuable service, it should introduce less intrusive revenue generation technologies, or at least run wide-ranging tests and focus groups before it unleashes service updates that leave millions of users worried, and stirring up such a fuss.

If Facebook is everyone’s new home page, or even our new operating system, then Facebook management should accept that we all have a say in the direction it takes.

zanasser@gmail.com

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