Why I’ve deleted my Facebook account

I just deleted my Facebook account. I do not wish to do business with these people.

Facebook simply doesn’t understand that their way of doing business is unacceptable. Given the repeated public statements by their founder Mark Zuckerberg, who’s on some personal mission to make the world “more open” — whatever the hell that means — that’s unlikely to change. Fuck him.

I’ve already outlined some of Facebook’s privacy problems a fortnight ago on the Patch Monday podcast, and for ABC Unleashed in Is it time to close your Facebook account?

The core problem is that the very idea of Facebook privacy is a contradiction.

As users, we want to limit the information we disclose about ourselves, to control who sees what. As Mark Pesce writes, this control goes to the heart of trust and personal safety. In theory Facebook agrees. “You should have control over what you share,” says its privacy guide.

Yet Facebook’s business model is best served by exposing your personal information as widely as possible. To advertisers, so they can target advertising more accurately and pay more for the privilege. To other users, to encourage them to share more as well. To search engines, to bring more traffic to Facebook. To anyone who wants to pay.

Throughout its six-year history, as this infographic shows, every time Facebook changes its privacy controls, the default settings always reduce your privacy.

If Facebook were serious about protecting its users privacy, it’d look very different indeed. And if they respected their users as people, they’d respect their clearly-indicated decision to delete their account — not deliberately make the deletion process hard to find and instead steer them through some half-arsed deactivation process while hitting them with emotional blackmail about how random friends will miss me.

No, Facebook, if I delete my account everyone will still be able to contact me. Any time they like. Don’t lie to me.

Jason Langenauer has posted his thoughts on leaving Facebook too. Renai LeMay documents five more reasons. They’re both good articles, but they over-think it. It’s all much simpler than that.

Facebook behaves like an arsehole, and I don’t do business with arseholes.

15 Replies to “Why I’ve deleted my Facebook account”

  1. Love it! Syndicate it!

    Perhaps you should create an asshole image that people could upload to their Facebook page as a substitute for their own image? (If you can even change your pic).

    I think your leaving FB is the beginning of an almighty exodus. Soon a better, more user-controlled model will emerge. The profiling FB has on each individual is extremely powerful (if they actually knew what to do with it) and of course, valuable.

    The disturbing part is the knowledge they have of individual network structures (as does the ‘Gee’), something the Big Brother Boys have been trying to bring to life for years. Now that it has been commercially produced, there’s nothing stopping them from flashing their badges in the name of national security and getting everything they need.

    Headline of the future: “It’s not who you know, it’s how you’re connected!”

  2. Not only am I in complete agreement with all the points you’ve raised but I also have additional gripes, namely the way that the Facebook powers that be are totally disconnected from the majority of users, evident in the continual unannounced API changes and total lack of support and/or input in discussions regarding their own products. The final straw came last week when without warning they disabled the ability for company page admins to add new static FBML boxes if the number of fans was less than 10K. Admittedly they reversed their decision following the inevitable uproar, however speaking personally the damage had been done.

    That said, I haven’t deleted my account… Not from lack of wanting but rather the fact I need it to administer my company page as well as those of clients. I have however stopped posting to my personal page, replaced with a newly created Tumblr page that now serves as a home for bits and pieces I want to share with others.

  3. You’re right. I’ve thought about being more exhaustive in explaining my reasons why I’m deleting my Facebook account tonight but “Facebook behaves like an arsehole, and I don’t do business with arseholes” sums it up nicely!

  4. Interesting that I’ve just seen this blog post, as I was listening to RN tonight with Mark P and someone else debating it.

    Part of the discussion was around our own inherent contradictions. We want to open up and share information online, build networks, see what other people are up to – but at the same time, we demand fine level control over each and every ‘sharing event’. And at the same time, this control needs to be easy to understand and use.

    Also, we are happy to post our information out there, but want the eternal ability to pull it back at any time of our choosing.

    I haven’t deleted yet, as I suffer from the network size effect ie. there are just too many friends (yes, real friends) out there for whom my alternate contact methods are more limited.

    Maybe I should revert to my blog on my own hosted site (but the someone else owns the servers!)…

  5. I have just discovered a more recent essay by danah boyd, Quitting Facebook is pointless; challenging them to do better is not, in which she makes some important points about the pointlessness of the “tech elites” quitting Facebook. Clearly I am one of those tech elites, at least in her framing of that term. Us tech elites are hardly representative of the majority of Facebook users, she says. Too true.

    More typical Facebook users, she reminds us, have already invested heavily in Facebook. The cost of leaving the potentially-dysfunctional relationship is, at least currently, more hassle that the utility of Facebook, at least currently. Not that such users are even aware that there’s a problem to begin with.

    It’s worth reading in full, as are her previous posts on this topic, Facebook and “radical transparency” (a rant) and Facebook is a utility; utilities get regulated. Again, please read them in full. danah boyd has a clear vision of this stuff.

    One of boyd’s core points is that Facebook is pretty much here to stay, at least in the medium term, so us tech elite types are better off staying to help change it for the better rather than leaving in a huff. Perhaps she’s right.

    However Facebook has never had that much utility for me. My care factor is low. While I can sometimes be sufficiently fired up to put my energies into changing the world, in this case I’m not that interested.

    I’ll respond to individual comments later today, or incorporate them into a new post. Right now I’m more interested in what others are thinking. And some good points have been made so far.

  6. Great piece, it nicely summarises my thinking before I did away with my account. The tipping point from apathy to action was when Facebook said that if I didn’t make my minimal profile information public (via Pages or whatever they were calling it), I couldn’t list it in my profile at all.

    It wasn’t so much about the practical effects of their privacy policy or anything like that: it’s just that, like you say, they behave like arseholes. I don’t trust arseholes.

  7. It appears for once that my terminal uncoolness means that for once I’m ahead of the pack. I never joined Facebook because I read their copyright policy and decided that I wasn’t willing for them to own every picture and word that I posted. Besides, I really don’t want everyone from 11 schools and 5 universities to find out what I’m doing these days – I find it hard enough to keep up with the people I genuinely care about.

    Live Journal is clunky and has its own problems, but it does allow me to keep my copyright and control who sees each of my posts and the personal information that I choose to reveal. It serves most of my social networking purposes reasonably well. Dreamweaver is probably better, but that would require me to figure it out.

  8. @Quatrefoil: On the copyright issue, your information is out of date. After (again!) strong public pressure, Facebook did change their terms and conditions so that the copyright in uploaded material remains with the author. I forget exactly when that happened.

  9. In some of my discussions with people, I have been struck by the fact that the subtle difference between concealment and usage isn’t apparent to everyone…

    A key reason I deleted my facebook account was not related to privacy for the aim of staying hidden, per se. Rather it was that facebook has a misguided sense of what they think is reasonable usage of my personal information.

    Fuck ’em.

  10. @Sylmobile: You’re right there, most of the media coverage of “Facebook ate my privacy” is about how personal information was used by third parties who viewed your non-private stuff — bosses sacking you for lying, stalkers discovering where you take the kids for soccer practice etc. Very little has been written about what Facebook itself and it’s “business partners” can do with this stuff. Maybe an article is needed here.

  11. Few people expected that social networks would evolve in a way that will demand flexible privacy models, where you could share some content with a limited amount of your friends and hide it from, say, co-workers…

    I think I’ll give facebook some time to grow up and develop are consistent trustful privacy model where I would know and be able to choose exactly who sees my photos or whatever…

  12. @Alexandr: I have no problem with privacy structures that adapt to changing needs and social expectations. Indeed, that’s inevitable. How we use different social platforms changes pretty much every week.

    But Facebook has shown a consistent disregard the the basics of keeping people properly informed, providing easy-to-understand explanations, and defaults which protect people’s privacy until they themselves choose to open things up. They’re not to be trusted — and at least for me they’ll take a long time to rebuild that trust.

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