'Quit Facebook Day' raises privacy concerns
Jenna Owsianik, ctvbc.ca
Published Sunday, May 30, 2010 7:46PM PDT
More than 24,000 frustrated Facebook users have joined in a backlash against the social media website and have committed to delete their accounts on Monday -- a date known internationally as Quit Facebook Day.
"The real issue is how your information is being used and the idea of your virtual identity and who owns that," said Joseph Dee, co-founder of QuitFacebookDay.com.
Dee and fellow Torontonian Matthew Milan started the website after attending a Facebook conference in California last April where they were bothered by the online network's policy changes.
One change allowed third-parties to save users' personal data indefinitely, as opposed to prior policy that forced third-parties to delete that data after 24 hours.
Another policy change allowed Facebook users' "likes" to be displayed on third-party websites.
"It's not so bad when you are thinking on the surface of things," Dee said. "But when you are thinking about someone making a social or political stance some people want control over what's out there."
QuitFacebookDay.com soon went viral, attracting thousands of other people also annoyed with how Facebook shares their personal data and for its confusing privacy settings.
In response Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced new and simplified privacy settings on Wednesday that meant users would no longer be forced to navigate through as many as 170 privacy options to control their information.
Dee's opinion of privacy on Facebook hasn't wavered, he just thinks its settings have been rearranged.
Alfred Hermida, a journalism professor at the University of British Columbia who specializes in digital communication technology, agrees with Dee.
"Essentially nothing really has changed on Facebook in terms of privacy," he said. "Their approach is still the same. Their approach is still that everything should still be public."
Hermida believes that Facebook has become the poster child of a larger issue involved with more and more people going online and posting information about themselves and others.
"The wider issue is Facebook isn't really the problem, it's the symptom of the of the problem," he said.
When we share pictures, videos and personal details online by using sites such as Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Facebook we leave digital footprints all over the Internet, Hermida told ctvbc.ca.
"We're doing this to ourselves and have got to a point where we haven't quite realized how much of our privacy we've really let go," he said.
With more than 400 million active users on Facebook, if 24, 000 people delete their accounts on Monday it will hardly make a dent in the population of the overall community.
That doesn't really matter though, according to Dee, who thinks the number of people who've committed to quit Facebook by digitally signing their names onto his website is "totally fluff."
"There is very little depth to whether that is an accurate number," he said.
Starting the movement against Facebook is more about philosophically questioning the future of the Internet, Dee told ctvbc.ca.
Again, Hermida shares Dee's opinion. "It's really more a symbolic act than anything else," he said.
"More a way of saying we are sharing this material online and we really need to think about how it affects us."