FaceBook and my privacy.

FaceBook has started to annoy me. I’ll be honest, it started to bug me big time when everyone started playing MafiaWars and Farmville – my response to that was basically, WTF? However, they’re not just annoying me because of stupid games because let’s face it I’ve spent a good deal of time playign Bejewelled Blitz and bought it for my phone because it is so addictive. But I don’t update my wall every time I win some new medal and anyway, that’s not why we are here.

Various authorities in the European Union are less than overjoyed with FaceBook at the moment because our concept (here in Europe) of privacy differs somewhat to the view of FaceBook. They are writing letters. And take a look at this. It’s an arresting visualisation of how much of your information about you FaceBook makes available and how that information has changed over time.Via the New York Times, there is a useful visual guide to how many privace related options there are on your FaceBook account.

Guides to decoupling your life from FaceBook are starting to proliferate and if they are to be believed, it is not easy to fully decouple your life from the site. Deleting is difficult; most people wind up de-activating and even that’s not quite as far as they wanted to go. So I have not yet decided myself what to do. I’m caught between the problem that I don’t particularly like FaceBook behaving as though they own any data I post there (which is pretty much why I stopped updating it all the much), but that it’s also, to some extent, a useful networking tool. I have three major networks; linkedin, FaceBook and twitter. I know, for example, that the vast majority of my friends on FaceBook tend to be kitesurfing related. I know that the vast majority of my friends on Twitter tend to be photography related with a few honourable exceptions. And I know that a subset of both of those wind up on linkedin (translation, less active on linkedin than on the other two).

But if I can live without looking at FaceBook for weeks and weeks (and yes I can), then I really question how much I need the site. If this is true for the vast majority of FaceBook’s users, then the site’s primary value is seriously in question.

The primary way of monetising FaceBook seems – from my point of view – to live in its utility as an advertising platform. In terms of utility to me, it’s not actually offering me very much at all. I don’t do any of my chatting via it (anyone that I do chat to online, I chat to via Skype or twitter). I don’t arrange parties over it (twitter, email or phone). I don’t really network much through it (twitter).

I don’t get served ads through my FaceBook application on my iPhone. It seems to me that FaceBook could have an awful lot of information about me (which they do) without me getting anything much that matters to me back. Maybe I’m an exceptional case but I think if most people are honest with themselves, this is true for everyone.

If I were a FaceBook subscriber – which I am not – I’d be raising blue murder about the fact that FaceBook is using my information to earn more money with little or no obvious increased benefit to me. But I don’t want to give up what little control I have about my profile on FaceBook completely on the grounds that this could be really stupid. It really is a bit of a dichotomy at the moment.