Home > Uncategorized > Protest Facebook Day and why you should care

Protest Facebook Day and why you should care

Alana Joy has started a little campaign for users to protest facebook on June 6th. Participants are asked to log out of the site on the 5th and then not log in, or use any of the site’s functionality for the entire day. So far her campaign has a little over 2k followers on Twitter and about 4k on facebook. Despite her best intentions, the protest might end up as a barely noticeable ripple in the tsunami that is facebook, especially considering that “Quit Facebook Day” from last week had 34,000 users delete their account and was considered a failure.

Why all the noise? It’s all about privacy. More to the point, the lack of it. It may seem rather hypocritical to cry “foul” about privacy on a social media website designed to share information with friends and family, but the protest is about how that information was handled. I never really saw what the big deal was about the issue until a few weeks ago. I really have nothing to hide on the internet and after years of having a “voice” through some form or other on the web, I’m aware of how I present myself and that anything I say and do may come back to bite me. In the ass! As such, I’ve always been aware that what I was about to post was what I really wanted post. I’ve made mistakes, but for the most part I think I’ve side-stepped a lot of awkwardness by thinking twice before posting certain things. I’ve developed the credo that my friend, Dan introduced me to: don’t post anything on the internet that you wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about in a crowded room. As such, everything I’ve put out, I’ve put out for the world to see. There’s nothing that I really want to hide, so the privacy settings on facebook never meant anything to me. I was rather oblivious to the reasons why anyone would join and use facebook while wanting to hide certain things.

One of the few people I know who doesn’t use facebook was talking about it a few weeks back. She basically said she was afraid of it because her ex could use it to find her profile and figure out where she was. That’s when it really dawned on me why what facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg did was so wrong. When you first sign up for the service it asks for your name, age and current location. This makes it easy for you to find people you may know and for others to find you, but you can hide that information so only friends can view it. By tweeking the privacy settings you can make everything open to anyone, make it so only your friends and friends of your friends can view your info, or just make it so only friends see it. what caused this whole fracas was that Zuckerberg decided to “update” the privacy features. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but in the process of updating they also reset the settings. Anything and everything that was private suddenly became public to everyone.

This set a dangerous precedent. There was a large share of people who were upset about the switch but it didn’t really effect the majority of users, like me, who had previously been sharing everything freely. It should’ve upset us though, because of what it said about the respect that the site had for its users and the trust that had been built up between the two. By turning a blind eye to facebook’s blunder it sent a message to other sites that sharing users personal information, even information the user deemed “private” was okay. There are stories abound of people losing their jobs because of posts that they thought were safe from the watchful eye of employers. Since the early days of facebook, and since stories of people losing their jobs thanks to facebook, people have become more savvy about what they should and should not share. However, once the privacy update came about, those private posts that people used to bitch about bosses, coworkers, exes, etc were now viewable by everyone. The backlash could’ve been, and for an unlucky few probably was, horrible.

Why did facebook do this? The bottom line is money. As Alana states on the facebookprotest home page, the real customers of facebook are advertisers. We, the users are the product that facebook is selling. They can make more money by selling advertisers the bio  and info of a 28 year old blogging, married, dad who likes Battlestar Galactica than they can by selling advertisers a random users who chooses not to share anything. Targeted ads are worth more than generic ones, and the best way to target ads is to gather information about the users. This probably also is the reason why it’s so hard to quit facebook. Right now there are 500 million users of facebook. What’s only implied by that stat is that those users are actually active. 500 million users is a powerful statistic that can be used when getting advertisers to support your site. By making it difficult for people to quit, you ensure that that number never goes down, even if a number of the profiles may be dormant.

By now this thing has become such a huge shit storm blowing up in Mark Zuckerberg’s face that I doubt he or the rest of the facebook staff will ever make a blunder again. It’s still important to send a message, though that we don’t appreciate what’s been done. Other sites should know that it’s not okay to pull this sort of stunt again in the future, with what could potentially be more damaging information.

This is just the main reason that I think it’s necessary to protest facebook. Their being bedfellows with Zynga is another big issue with me. Zynga got in trouble last year for misleading a bunch of their players. In order to get more money in a game like Farmville, Zynga gave players the option to buy it, or they could complete a short survey and get the money for “free”. Once the survey was done the player just had to give thier phone number to get the results. What the players weren’t told was that there would now be a small recurring charge on their phone bills. There’s also the “Like” buttons which are popping up on more and more websites. By clicking on the like button, the user is allowing that website to access their user page and get their personal information.

Unfortunately, I get too much useful information from facebook to be able to quit it outright. I’ve found a couple of ways to not support them while still using the site. I use tweetdeck to check what’s going on on both twitter and facebook. No ads = no money to facebook. I also use adblock plus on firefox. Here’s a how-to guide on it.

Even if you don’t plan on protesting or quitting facebook, you should be aware of what they’ve done with your information.

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  1. June 5, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    I do think people should be more informed about their privacy on Facebook. I rarely, if ever “like” something, because I know that by doing so, you’re allowing the developer or website access the information. But I see some of my Facebook friends “liking” several things a day. They must have hundreds of things that they “like”. It makes me cringe, because I can’t imagine how many developers and websites have access to information that they want kept “private”.

    • DJ
      June 6, 2010 at 7:01 am

      “Like”ing something just baffles me, for the most part. When it was still becoming a fan of things I would only follow sites that or products that I really cared about, and even then most of the stuff that I received from them did not pertain to me. To me, going around and clicking “Like” on everything is basically the same as running around to different business saying, “Hey! Spam me with your crap!” It’s really a genius move on facebook’s part. Spam has been something people have been complaining about for years, and the site has people screaming for more.

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