I joined Facebook several years ago at the request of a friend and business partner who is well-known for being an early adopter of technology. I was skeptical at first but quickly got lured in by the chance to easily reconnect with people I hadn’t seen in decades. I even met some people on Facebook that I had never known anywhere else because we shared the same interests and opinions. There are no doubt many very cool things about Facebook and I can definitely understand the attraction.
On the other hand, Facebook also has its share of negatives. A constant stream of posts about silly games like Farmville and Mafia Wars drove me crazy at first. Eventually, I adopted the approach of blocking all “apps” of any sort. The only things I really wanted to see were some meaningful posts from friends. After a while I determined that very few of the posts were really that all that meaningful.
My wife joined Facebook about the same time I did. After a few weekends of blowing hours she didn’t really have, she declared that Facebook is a time sink and never went back. She thought the time was better spent with family or outdoors getting some exercise. I think this was a very wise decision on her part.
All along I was concerned about security and I tried to keep up with the ever-changing interface and privacy settings. Despite years of complaints, headlines, and countless changes we still see that there are big problems at Facebook.
After a while it finally dawned on me that Facebook is not and never will be about preserving anyone’s privacy. If Zuckerberg’s photos could be hacked how safe are mine or yours?
The more I read, the more I realized that even if I considered the things I put on Facebook unimportant they may eventually be used against me in ways that I might not be able to envision today.
During my time on Facebook I observed many instances of my friend’s accounts being compromised. If one of your friends suddenly starts spamming everyone about blue wonder pills or how they just won an iPad you can bet they’ve been hacked. The less obvious cases may be even more worrisome however!
Eventually, I determined that even if I limited my feeds and photos to “friends only”, I had to trust that all my friends were smart enough to avoid being hacked; otherwise any and all of my stuff could be open to the world. If you think about that for a minute you will realize that the words “Facebook Privacy Settings” are destined to become one of the great oxymorons of our time.
One of my other pet peeves about Facebook was the incessant reposting of hoaxes about viruses that will destroy everything on your hard drive. Indeed, Facebook is a great place to get mixed up with viruses and malware, but there are so many fake posts most people will never know or care about the real thing until it’s too late. Today’s headlines give us a hint of how things will spread:
On the whole I can say that I enjoyed my time on Facebook but in the end I concluded that the risks outweighed the rewards. Sure, I’ll miss some of those friends but the important ones still know how to find me. Meanwhile I’m looking forward to having more time with my family, more time on my bike, and yes even more time to learn and write about security issues. Happy New Year!
If you find yourself asking these same questions about Facebook you should be aware that Facebook doesn’t make it easy to completely remove your account and everything in it. While it’s easy to “deactivate” an account your posts and photos remain indefinitely on the Facebook servers. If you try to delete your account permanently which removes the content you must avoid any logins to your account for two weeks after requesting deletion or the deletion request will be cancelled. There are other sites that discuss this so I won’t reproduce all the details here.