The Facebook Dilemma

It’s all over the interwebs that Facebook’s latest changes to privacy setting is evil.  Plenty of famous people have left FB.  Plenty of people I know have left Facebook.

I’m on the fence.  My kids are on Facebook and for my teenager, especially, it’s a nice way to see what he’s up to.  It serves as a conversation starter.  And you know, I like to keep an eye on them in case trouble arises.  Also, my dad’s friends are all there and they let me know how he’s doing, also important to me.  And then there’s all the old friends from elementary school, high school, college, whom I wouldn’t know anything about if it weren’t for Facebook.

But, I’m not a fan of the how difficult it is to set privacy settings nor am I a huge fan of having my information used for advertising purposes.  But, I already do that in other ways–credit cards, grocery store cards (at least FB doesn’t know what food I eat (yet)).  And while I may feel a bit squeamish about that, it’s not like I didn’t know.  I mean, I get the service for free.  They have to make money, so naturally, it’s all about the ads.

Right now, I have everything set to “friends only” though honestly, I’m not entirely sure about that.  That’s what it says, but who knows.  Which is part of the problem, yes?  And then there’s the fact that my “friends” on Facebook run the gamut from people in my field I’ve met briefly to people I see every day to family to former students.  Not all of those people need to know everything about me.  Which is why I don’t post much there.  I could make things more granular, but it’s a hell of a lot of work.  I’d have to group my friends and then go through each of five or six different privacy areas and set what each group gets to see.  Also, I have tried to change my network, but it’s so school based still, I have to tell it what year I am.  Really?  I can’t just be a resident of the Philadelphia area?  I have to have gone to school there.  See, I don’t want to be in my high school or college or even graduate school network.  I don’t live near those people.  I  have little in common with them except that we attended school together 20 years ago.  And every network I’ve tried to join requires a college email.  Hello, we didn’t even have email back then.  Either that or I didn’t go to school around here, but I live here.  Hello?

The people who read my blog and follow me on Twitter are a whole different group of people, so sticking with just those means I lose connections to people who are just on Facebook.  So it’s a dilemma.  And I haven’t decided what to do yet.  I feel like I need/want to be there for lots of reasons, good reasons, but I also feel that their business practices are problematic.  So I’ll keep thinking about it for now, see what the fallout really is, and decide what to do later.  I feel very Scarlet O’Hara about the whole thing.

7 Replies to “The Facebook Dilemma”

  1. I’m cutting back on my presence without deleting my account entirely.

    I’ve taken down family photos, but left up old photos I posted to share with long-lost friends, or relatives who didn’t have particular photos. I’ve deleted all personal information (marital status, political party, names of children) but left up my alumni organizations. Anyone can friend me or send a message to me, but I’m not on the outside search engines. I still have a profile photo.

    I do think there’s a difference between aggregate data sold to advertisers (which is what magazines do, and what Facebook could still do, if they chose) and personal data, which is what Facebook now wants me to let them sell to advertisers. And my grocery card, at least, doesn’t sell personal data to advertisers. They use the information in aggregate, and they send me targeted ads. I can opt out of any personal sharing, which is what Facebook has taken away.

    I had no real problem with Facebook until they took away my opportunity to be completely invisible on the site. If my name, location, profile photo, and — most distressingly — my network of friends, are always going to be available, then I don’t have enough control over my Facebook presence for me to consider it safe.

  2. I’m sticking with FB for the moment, because most of my volunteer groups use it to act like a news letter and general email thingy.

    Also, I’ve connected with a bunch of hs friends and whatnot…

  3. I’m in the process of taking myself off of Facebook (getting people’s individual e-mails, etc.) I was pretty offended that I was no longer able to list my interests without linking to some “official site” for each one. What is the point of designing my profile page if it no longer reflects me? I’ll miss many of the conveniences you enumerate, Laura, but I’m starting to feel that Facebook is like McDonalds or the Disney Channel: convenient, seductive, but ultimately not that good for me…

  4. Although I realize this comment comes a bit after your initial post, I would like to hear how you feel about Facebook now? Do you feel it’s most recent changes (ie. timeline and increased privacy controls) have effected the way you feel? I too remain on the fence about Facebook, even with their increased privacy controls I feel as if my personal information is more unsafe than it ever has been. I understand why a company that is free to it’s users would need to find an effective way to make money, I disagree with their questionable tactics. I feel that the way they chose to obtain information from their users poses many ethical issues. Can you offer any thoughts on this? With everything Facebook has done to make us feel as if our private data is safer do you feel any safer?

  5. I still feel queasy about Facebook. My kids both use it, and that’s the main reason I’m there. I think they’re still using our data for money-making purposes. As some people say, Facebook isn’t the product, you are. Google uses your data as well, but they’re not encouraging the kind of revealing behavior Facebook is. I do think it’s worth watching both the legal landscape of Internet privacy and what these kinds of companies pursue as marketing strategies.

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