Yesterday, I was reading Tom Hodginkinson’s ‘With Friends Like These…’ (published in The Guardian), and while I’m usually pretty pro-Facebook bashing, I don’t agree with his points. He outlines six main reasons that Facebook is evil (my word), and well… they’re just a bit off. (And yes, Yaz, I did start drafting this before you posted)
1. “We will advertise at you”
Let’s be honest. Users are NOT Facebook’s client. We’re its data. We’re one of its selling points. If Facebook didn’t take advantage of the information we willingly and knowingly give it to make money, there would be no Facebook. This is, in and of itself, is not evil: everyone does it, everyone expects it. If you honestly don’t expect that your information is being collected and used by someone, you must have been born before the first census and then frozen in time.
2. “You can’t delete anything”
Good for Facebook. What if someone posted something libellous about me and then took it down? If Facebook deleted it right away, what would I do if I needed to take action? And while “reasonable” is vague, it’s also generally less than 18 months. They’re also fairly clear in their TOS (which, yes, I did read) about what they’ll do with information you’ve deleted, and frankly, it’s not a whole heck of a lot.
3. “Anyone can glance at your intimate confessions”
IF YOU DON’T WANT SOMETHING SEEN, DON’T PUT IT ON THE INTERNET. This has nothing to do with Facebook. As evil as they may be, I really believe they’re doing everything they can to restrict my information the way I want it to be restricted. Facebook definitely gives me a lot more options in this sense than any other site I can think of.
4. “Our marketing profile of you will be unbeatable”
Good for Facebook. Frankly, I am more than happy to have the most personalised user experience possible. I’m also happy that Facebook is able to keep it’s marketers happy by having good targeting. I’ve actually been in situations on Facebook where I’ve been disappointed because an ad was actually OF INTEREST to me, but I’d already clicked on to the next page before I realised what I’d seen (because I’m so used to tuning out useless ads), and couldn’t get back to click on the ad.
5. “Opting out doesn’t mean opting out”
I’m sorry, but if someone tries to steal my identity, i WANT Facebook to notify me. Saying “I don’t want any e-mail” doesn’t mean “I don’t want ANY e-mail.”
6. “The CIA may look at the stuff when they feel like it”
This isn’t Facebook being evil. This is the US government being illegal. If you don’t want them to see your info, don’t let your info reside on servers in the United States.
So we’ve established that these are pretty bad bases for deciding that Facebook is evil. What are good reasons, you ask?
1. “Facebook is ours, not yours.” See my previous blog post on this topic, Facebook: We’re Not Myspace.The crux: Facebook is pretty good at pissing off users by making decision that focus more on the their needs or those of their advertisers than keeping their databank, i mean ‘user base’ happy.
2. “If we let you think you have sway, we can convince you that you do.” See: Facebook Makes Us All Look Like Suckers and learn how Robert Scoble’s struggle gives us the illusion of control.
3. “Your life has to fit within our boundaries.”
Here’s my biggest beef with Facebook. I know I can limit profiles, but the reality is that i have different groups of people who I want to have access to my profile, but for entirely different reasons. I want my family to see one version, my friends to see another, and my co-workers/colleagues to see something completely different. But instead, I have to deal with daily context f*cks, just so that I can be one of the cool kids on fbook.
4. “It’s our data, but yours too, only not really.”
I haven’t yet tried to quit Facebook. Thought about it, but haven’t yet taken any steps. Why? Because you have to delete each artefact, one at a time, until Facebook has nothing left. I own my data, but I can’t just tell Facebook that I want it all back, I can’t take it with me to any other site, and I can’t specify rights in regards to my content for anyone but Facebook.