H4cked Off: Facebook, consider yourself unfriended

By John Leonard
15 Aug 2012 View Comments
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So, farewell then Facebook. Consider yourself unfriended.

Further reading

Not that you'll miss me. I have hardly been the most attentive friend in recent years, limiting my otherwise bare wall to a couple of old photos and a few brief messages. There's little that I've Liked and I've never poked anyone without their consent.

It was not always this way. Back when you were a fresh-faced young thing I was quite a fan. You had everything going for you, a brilliantly simple idea timed to perfection and executed with aplomb. You were the future, the one that couldn't be ignored.

Bunny boiler

So what happened? Well, frankly you started to scare me a little. Even in those heady early days your cavalier approach to privacy was a cause for concern, but one that like many people I was prepared to overlook. Since then, though, your true personality has been allowed to flower. You have shown yourself to be shifty, self-centred and manipulative – as talented as Mr Ripley and as obsessive as the bunny boiler in Fatal Attraction. In short, not the type I would choose as a friend.

Your default position with respect to your own operations is secrecy. In contrast, your unremitting goal has been to persuade us, your users, to reveal more information about ourselves than might be good for us. Information is power as any good despot knows.

A couple of years ago my wife noticed her name attached to pics of her on other people's walls. She was delighted (even fleeting fame can do funny things to people), but I was horrified. "Did Facebook ask your permission to do this?", I asked. It turned out that no, she had to manually opt out if she didn't want her image to be automatically facially-recognised, tagged and shared. This is typical of your behaviour Facebook: assume first, backtrack later.

Now, I'm no social media refusenik. I love the rapid chit-chat of Twitter, the random walkabout of StumbleUpon and am coming to terms with the ever-expanding universes of Reddit.

As far as I know, these sites don't stalk me. Unlike you, Facebook, they allow me to browse and communicate anonymously (without having to go to the bother of creating a false account). They don't assume I want to share everything with everyone and provide simple opt-outs and controls that anyone can use.

Last week, I thought I'd expand my social horizons with Digg, only to find that a Facebook account is a prerequiste to join. As I slunk away, feeling like someone refused entry to an exclusive club for turning up without a tie, I noticed this on the Digg home page: People without Facebook accounts are suspicious. While somewhat tongue-in-cheek, this article crystalised my thoughts.

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