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Past Time to Get Off Facebook?


It's well established that joining a social network means trading privacy for information. Your Facebook friends, for example, get to see that picture of you looking like you might be stoned, and you get to "like" their posts celebrating the legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado. Or, perhaps you simply post about your 50th birthday party or celebrating Ramadan. Potential employers get to see all that stuff too, depending on your privacy settings, and there is evidence that some of them discriminate on the basis of age and against Muslims. Facebook, meanwhile, gets to target ads at you.

What's not as well appreciated, but becoming increasingly clear, is that users of social networks in general, and of social networking kingpin Facebook in particular, are ill-equipped to evaluate the price they're paying in this trade -- to determine just how much privacy they'll lose over time in exchange for status updates from their friends, and what that loss will eventually mean for themselves and their loved ones.


Facebook's data hoard is being mined in ever more inventive ways. To take just a few examples: information uploaded to Facebook was sought by the Manhattan DA in a recent social security fraud case; Facebook earlier this year announced research on new techniques for performing facial recognition on partial digital images; and the company last month defended a patent acquired while purchasing a company that could be used to evaluate a person's loan application based on the credit of his or her friends.

I started off on FB to manage the band's page. Then friends and family found me so now that the band's defunct, i'm on it so that i can pretend to keep in touch with said friends and family without actually doing so. I don't post pictures of myself, but i have been tagged, so i might as well have put them up.

Fnord12's always admonishing me for being paranoid about posting pics of us on the blog and such. "What are they going to do with your picture?", he says to me. Apparently, they're going to use it to decide if I qualify for a loan. O.o

In today's world of social media, blogging, and the internet, it's pretty much impossible not to have an online presence, so i should prolly not waste energy being paranoid because, really, what can you do? Even if you avoid social media, your friends are on it, posting pictures you're in. And email. How can we live without email, even though i know right now Microsoft is prolly mining everything it can from my account (NO! i'm not using your stupid cloud services for saving photos! stop telling me about them every time i log in!!!).

I vacillate between being completely paranoid and considering encryptying everything to being too lazy to actually implement anything the Electronic Frontier Foundation might suggest to "protect my data". Mostly, i swing to the "too lazy" side. It's just in my nature.

But, while i might not be able to give up email or this blog, i do think FB is a horrible hell hole that sucks you in and devours your time and energy, so mebbe i should quit it altogether. Find some other way to pretend i care what's going on in the lives of people i don't see on a daily/weekly basis, bring back the tradition of mailing of Christmas cards that include the obligatory write-up of "what happened in the last year that i can complain about". Who doesn't love getting those?

Of course, people can always leave Facebook. But you don't even have to be on Facebook to be on Facebook. When I entered Doctorow's name into Facebook's search engine, I got a page that included a neatly formatted teaser link to his Wikipedia entry, plus a section titled, "Photos of my friends and Cory Doctorow." He turns up in two pictures, uploaded and tagged by people who I'm friends with on the platform. At the bottom it reads, "This Page is automatically generated based on what Facebook users are interested in, and not affiliated with or endorsed by anyone associated with the topic."

By min | September 18, 2015, 9:24 AM | Liberal Outrage


Min, I share all the concerns raised about Facebook. Although I do not use it anymore, in part because of privacy concerns, I think it's usefulness is primarily in making social connections with friends and family members who are no longer living nearby, but instead might be half-a-world away. If it was actually used to supplement social relationships that are impossible to maintain in person, then it would be less useful a data-mining tool for corporate and invasive government interests, and more effective for people without trading too much privacy for too little social gain. But it certainly seems to be used to replace face-to-face social interaction, which is also a terrifying prospect.