Quitting Facebook (again) and, to a certain extent America…

In light of recent developments in the Wikileaks saga — mostly the recent decision by the United States government to subpoena all information related to twitter users who follow #wikileaks, of which I am one — I have decided to curtail my activity on American social networks. Sadly, the United States government does have sway over American companies and can effectively put a gun to their heads in order to force them to reveal information on their users regardless of said companies’ privacy policy.

Frankly, this isn’t acceptable. If one wants to protect one’s information one is left with little choice but to try and abandon US sites and companies as much as possible and opt instead for other sites and companies that are at least at arm’s length distance from the American behemoth. Not that the USG won’t overreach and encroach on foreign sovereignty to the extent to which they can get away with, but at least I won’t make things easy for them. My domain name registrars and web server ISP are already fully Canadian, and I’ll try and examine ways to put more distance between myself and the USA in the coming weeks.

Yeah, I’ve deleted my Facebook account before, and stupidly came back because someone I know seemed to have problems getting in touch with me. That turned out to be pretty dumb and pointless for a number of reasons I shan’t bore you with, and I keep almost no data on Facebook as it is, but a step’s a step.

Am I giving up Twitter? There doesn’t seem to be much of a point in doing that now. You can’t delete a Twitter account anyway, you can only deactivate it; and one has to give kudos to Twitter for getting the formerly-secret subpoenas unsealed so that they can notify the users directly concerned, that took balls on their part. Can you imagine Mark Zuckerberg doing such a thing? I can’t. The guy has no scruples or moral compass. He’d hand over your info before even reading the subpoena. Probably already has, to be frank, and that’s why Facebook is the first to go, and I won’t be back this time.

Whatever happened to Obama? I railed as much as anyone against Bush’s secret warrantless wiretapping for the Orwellian nightmare that it was, and back when he was just a candidate Obama was saying the right things, such as:

“Government whistleblowers are part of a healthy democracy and must be protected from reprisal.” -Candidate Obama, 2008

But once in the White House he wasted little time in showing us that this display of principle was nothing but bullshit and marketing (but I repeat myself). All in all Obama is no different than his predecessor, but he does prove in his own disappointing-the-supporters way that there is indeed no difference between black and white. I can’t remember a time when an individual has disappointed me more than Mr. Obama. People like me thought he would be the man to bring “change you can believe in”. But as with everything said for a purpose (in this case, to win votes), ultimately one is disappointed at the sheer hypocrisy of it all.

Quitting Facebook

I must be starting to show my age a little bit. My back aches and I get muscle cramps with worrying regularity, I don’t in fact like the new-fangled music that young people appreciate so much, but especially I’ve come to reflect on how much I am *not* an exhibitionist. If friends are getting together and I’m the only one with a camera, there will be few pictures taken, and I’ve noticed how antithetical that is to today’s generation, who prefer to go in for the “share everything and hold back nothing” approach to partying and life in general.

Good on them though, I’m not the kind of person who thinks that his way is the only correct way for everybody, and indeed I’ve little patience for those who do. And that, in somewhat of a roundabout way, is why I’ve decided to shut down my Facebook account permanently.

The crux of my problem with Facebook is, in a way, that it is designed for young people who are by and large still in college, even though it is now used by a much wider variety of people; still, it’s not the audience itself so much as the obsession that Facebook has with denying that any such thing as privacy exists. It wasn’t always that way; initially it was conceived as a means for people in colleges and universities to have a sort of common platform with which they could keep in touch with friends and classmates. If you didn’t have a university email account, you were deliberately left out and therefore wouldn’t be able to see who or what was on Facebook, which is pretty good privacy.

Since then Facebook seems to have done a 180. Essentially they started making more and more formerly-private things public with scant notification only delivered after the fact, a bit like a friend you thought you could confide in but who ends up telling everyone at the party your little secrets. This wasn’t done all at once of course, as this informative infographic shows. Nor was it done out of a dogmatic desire for a more open society, but out of the founder’s desire to cash in by turning his site into the data-miner’s dream database in the hopes of attracting buyers.

Of course there are some people who say that all you need to do is watch for updated TOS and privacy policy on the Facebook site. Frankly, that still sucks. It’s like inviting “that guy” to a party at your place, you know, that guy who always drinks too much, that guy who ends up throwing up all over your bathroom and groping every woman there, that guy who ends every evening with a (thankfully drunken and abortive) fight. You could invite that guy to a party and have to spend all night keeping an eye out for him. Or, you could decide that his company’s not worth it and just not invite him. The second way is a lot more fun usually. My point is that Facebook just isn’t worth the bother at this point.

More disturbingly Facebook’s “make everything public” strategy has cost many people dearly. Content on people’s Facebook pages has been used to justify firing people, denying people promotions, or not hiring them at all. Pictures on Facebook have lead to people being arrested (I’m not saying it was without cause, but it’s still a concern). This is all a part of the public record and easily looked up. Clearly there are very significant negatives to having a Facebook account in the first place, and I’m not enough of a “2.0” kind of guy to think that the upsides of Facebook outweigh its downsides. Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t care about the users, as long as he can squeeze more money out of the site. Remember Beacon? that was possibly the biggest intentional privacy black hole of the 2000s, yet it was only withdrawn very reluctantly (a class action lawsuit had to be launched) with no sign that Zuckerberg ever thought there was anything wrong with it, and without any guarantee that it wouldn’t rear its ugly head again in one way or another.

Some people are really into social networking; to be without Facebook would be like death to them… but I’m not one of those people. Yes, it’s quite useful if a former colleague or classmate now somewhere else is looking for you, but I’ve had a web site long enough that if you type my name in Google you’ll find this site, which is handy enough for me to share my thoughts with the world.

So, that’s my beef with Facebook. Why bother writing this? Well, I have a number of friends and family who are on the site and may wonder why I’m not on it anymore — now you know.

Adieu à Facebook

Après avoir eu un compte au site Facebook depuis quelques années, j’ai décidé d’abandonner ce fameux site.

Le problème que j’ai avec Facebook c’est que le propriétaire du site, Mark Zuckenberg, ne croit pas que les utilisateurs devraient avoir le droit de mettre quoi que ce soit sur le site pour diffusion seulement privée. Ça n’était pas toujours le cas; au début ça n’était même pas tout le monde qui avait même le droit d’utiliser le site. Cependant avec les années l’avarice de la direction a eu pour effet que le site a fait volte-face sur la protection des informations privées, et a lancé des revisions à sa politique sur le sujet qui ont eu pour résultat que pratiquement toutes les données entrées sur Facebook sont maintenant aussi publiques que si on les écrivait sur le mur d’une partition de salle de bain dans un nightclub. Ça s’est fait graduellement, comme l’indique cet infographique (anglais). Et ça s’est fait sans préavis aux utilisateurs et avec le seul but le profit de M. Zuckerberg. Si vous n’aimez pas, tant pis, il n’y a qu’à ne pas utiliser le site.

Eh bien c’est justement la décision que j’ai prise. Quand on fait face à une administration qui a si peu de scrupules, on ne peut que se retirer. Beaucoup de gens ont perdu un emploi ou une promotion à cause d’items dans Facebook qui auraient dû être réservés à des amis mais qui ont de toute évidence été inspectés par un inconnu. Dans certains cas des photos d’utilisateurs ont été utilisées pour monter des chefs d’accusation contre certains utilisateurs (qui le méritaient peut-être, mais ça porte quand même à réfléchir). Pour moi j’ai décidé que le jeu n’en vaut pas la chandelle. Je ne suis pas de la génération qui a 20 ans maintenant, ceux qui prennent des photos à longueur de soirée quand ils sortent et qui n’ont aucune hésitation à tout partager en public, et un site qui est fait pour eux n’est probablement pas fait pour moi. Les risques de Facebook ne sont tout simplement pas égaux aux bénéfices. Certes on peut m’y retrouver facilement, mais si on entre mon nom dans Google on arrive aussi facilement à ce site.