To delete, or not to delete.

There has been a lot of talk about Facebook’s reputation concerning privacy lately. May 31st, 2010 has been deemed to be “Delete Facebook Day”, and I think I might participate. I’m writing this in hopes that, even if you decide not to delete your Facebook account, that you at least give it some thought.

  • I, personally, have never posted anything to Facebook that would incriminate me in any way.
  • I haven’t posted anything that might cost me my job.
  • I haven’t posted anything that might damage any of the relationships I have with friends and family.
  • I haven’t posted any photos that would embarrass me, or anyone else for that matter.

So, why on earth would I be concerned with Facebook’s privacy issues?

First and foremost, Facebook’s business model is undergoing a fundamental shift. I ask you this question: Are you, as a Facebook user, one of Facebook’s customers? If you answered something along the lines of “Yes, of course Facebook’s users are their customers”, then this may come as a shock to you. Quite simply, you, as a user, are not Facebook’s customer. You, as a user, are Facebook’s PRODUCT that they sell to their REAL customers.

It comes down to one very simple concept: Data is king. Data is worth a boatload of cash.  Facebook has realized that there is a lot more money in aggregating data and selling it to others than there is in running a service that lets you keep in touch with your friends and family, and supporting it with targeted advertising.

I recognize how valuable this data can be, which brings me to my second major concern. There are lots of companies who have lots of data about us, but, there is a big difference between a company like Google and a company like Facebook, and that is the man at the helm. In my opinion, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to ethical behavior. Between the legal battle over who owned the original source code to Facebook, and more recently, accusations surrounding hacking email accounts to read other people’s email, I have decided that this is not a man who I want deciding who can do what with my data. If you haven’t read the book The Accidental Billionaires, you should.

My third concern is with the annoying behavior that Facebook has exhibited lately regarding privacy settings. When many of us created our Facebook accounts, we were under the impression that our accounts were private, or, at least, as private as we configured them to be. Even though I have my Facebook privacy settings locked down, Facebook has repeatedly added new features, and, by default, opted every subscriber’s account into an “open” setting. I have then had to manually go into my privacy settings and opt out of the new feature in order to protect my data.

I’m conflicted over this decision though, since I really do find value in Facebook. I am reluctant to leave because I have so many friends who use the service. I suppose, in a way, that should be one more reason to leave. I know, that probably sounds backwards. I have to wonder though, if I am having trouble leaving Facebook because so many of my friends use the service, it stands to reason that my friends would also think the same thing. By staying, I would continue to be part of the problem, by giving my friends one more reason to continue using the service.

I’m really leaning towards deleting my account, and I want everyone else to think about it to.