Cancer is a terrible disease which it has claimed the life of a well known technology journalist and a well known coder within the last couple of weeks. Now Facebook has been diagnosed as being in the final stages of that online cancer which is a disregard for user privacy, and I think it is probably terminal.
The issues have not gone unnoticed by the media, including the DaniWeb news team, with Ron Miller reporting how some people are very unhappy with such things as the recent 'instant personalisation' feature that shares user activities as they move around the web, and Guy Clapperton spotting a story as it was breaking about how the Facebook chat function had been pulled (albeit temporarily) after a coding bug enabled casual users to view your chat activity and see who had applied to be your friend.
I myself have written many times about the issues, about how Facebook insists we can trust it, about the privacy implications of Facebook coding bugs, and even giving the Facebook founder a primer on privacy.
But does anyone really care, you might wonder. After all, Facebook is giant amongst social networking giants, with more than 400 million users. Surely these privacy issues are just a minority interest and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is right when he suggests that online privacy is an outdated social convention? Hell no, how wrong can you be. Ron Miller conducted an, admittedly non-scientific, poll asking Facebook users would leave the service if they could find a credible alternative. A rather worrying, for Facebook, 63 percent said 'Hell ya, in a heartbeat'. Only a measly 3 percent said no way.
The US Federal Trade Commission has commented on a complaint filed against Facebook that accuses it of unfair and deceptive trade practices for the automatic disclosure of user data which those users had not previously made public. The FTC has not dismissed this complaint as rabble rousing by sandal wearing beardies, but instead has stated that the changes appear to "violate user expectations" and "diminish user privacy".
My cure for this cancer has been the methodical removal of my personal data, regular visits to the options section to ensure the bare minimum of folk get to see my business, and a slow withdrawal from the network. Indeed. I rarely post anything on Facebook any more. It's no great loss to me as I'm not too interested in pretending to be a farmer or a Mafia family member, have no pressing concerns if my taste in movies is better or worse than my friends, and can see what the majority of my network of friends are up to on Twitter as most of them cross-post everything between the two services anyway.
Unfortunately my cure is not working, and as I hate to see anything suffer such a slow and painful death as this I feel there is only one course of action left: to put it out of its misery.
You might have noticed a poll attached to this story, it is your chance to determine the fate of Facebook. Or at least my longstanding Facebook account. Yes or No, should I commit Facebook suicide?