Friday, May 14, 2010

Facebook - Convenient Bundling of the Largely Pointless

With the Facebook bandwagon turning tail and turning the influx into an outflux (rhetorically at least), the ACLU invites us to sign on to their letter to the company's executives:

I use Facebook because it allows me to share with the people I choose—not the people you choose. Facebook's recent changes make it harder for me to control my private information. And unfortunately, that makes it harder for me to trust Facebook with that info at all.

Please do the following to regain my trust:

1. Give me control over all of the information that I share via Facebook, including "connections." Make privacy the default, and then, let me choose who can see that information: friends, apps, pages, or the whole world.

2. Make sure that my information will not be shared with any third party—including applications, websites, or other Facebook partners—without my express opt-in consent.

Facebook says that privacy is about giving users control of their own information. Please live up to that!
Trust? Um, yea, I hope that works out for us all -- I so hope we can someday come to place our dearest trust in Facebook again.

I suspect Facebook has gotten the message from this or any of a few dozen other high-profile pilings on, but I more deeply suspect they'll do no better than they've done in the past, which is to pretend concern while finding ways to use the information we give them to make money. We can trust them to do that.

Waxing paranoid and trying to yank back our personal information seems to be the chess move they're expecting, so I think it best to degrade the quality of the information. I have been removing items on a gradual basis, leaving only the barest sketches of my richly textured life, and it is a sketch that only people who already know me from so-called real life would think to connect with me. I leave open the question of whether any particular thing I have left out there is, you know, true.

According to Facebook, I have few interests, no political views, and no religious views. I like a few tee-vee shows and some recording artists, but can't seem to think of any books or films worth listing. I have bravely joined the fans of Jimmy McNulty from The Wire and added my name to those who, in our childhood days, spoke into a running fan to make a robot voice. I don't seem to have a work history. My profile picture is one of those tedious 3-D holograms that eventually reveals a bug if you stare at it long enough, a bug that may or may not resemble me.

If they want to use my age, sex, town of residence, school affiliations, and other scattered details to sell cello accessories to me -- something they've tried with weird regularity of late even though I've never even handled an actual cello -- I don't feel much panic over it.

For now, I see no point in leaving, though I won't be crying wet sloppy tears if it comes to that. FB still exposes me to people I don't otherwise chance across and yet find mildly interesting, and provides an easy way to make deeply, deeply insightful comments about their postings, photographs, notes, and interactions. I can follow the successes and failures of people dimly recalled from grammar school in Bejeweled, Mafia Wars, and Farmville. It gives me a chance to take idiotic quizzes, and in other respects, it constitutes a convenient inroad to a variety of mostly pointless interactions I would otherwise not bother to make -- it bundles a whole class of social fare that would be far more painful, and probably unworkable, if dispersed among several web sites.

I plan to keep a jaundiced eye on it, but for now, I don't find Facebook worth the trouble of killing.

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