“What, you’re not on Facebook?”

Man…  I get this question from time to time, and it’s tough to restrain myself from going off on a minor rant.  Sometimes I don’t succeed.  So, I’m going to spell it out here, and never speak of it again.  I hope.

I have a number of problems with Facebook and other so-called “social networking” sites — Twitter, Myspace, and whatever new thing Google is throwing into the mix this week.  Some of these issues extend to so-called “cloud” services like Picasa, Google Docs and the hundreds of similar “Give us your stuff, we’ll take care of it for you” businesses.  Most of the issues I have revolve around three major points:

  1. Privacy.  Regardless of what you may think, Facebook and other sites are not secure.  There are fairly regular and major incidents involving privacy breeches involving Facebook and similar sites.  YOU may not always be able to get to your stuff (see below), your friends might not be able to, but you can bet that people you don’t want to will have access to it all from time to time — and you don’t know when, or how much of it.  If you bother to read the terms of service that you agree to (and which gets changed from time to time), you will see that you’re giving these people the right to use everything — your name, pictures, video and everything else — forever — however they see fit.  When they need a new revenue stream, where do you think that’s going to go?
  2. Information overkill.  Do we really need to know every random thought that passes through the head of every person you’ve ever known, and quite a few you don’t know?  How many examples of Facebook-spawned fights, feuds and divorces have there been?  It’s said that absence makes the heart grow fonder.  It can certainly provide the distance needed to maintain civility with people you don’t need (or want) to see or talk to every day.
  3. Security of data.  This pertains to social networking sites to some degree, but even more to the so-called “cloud” and other on line services.  Keep your stuff on storage media that you own and control.  Want to make sure you have copies of all your pictures and video?  Better keep it on CD, DVD, portable drives, whatever.  Keep backups.  Spitting it out to some web based service may be quick and easy, but in the end you have absolutely no control over what happens to it, nor any guarantee that it will be there when you want it.

So, no, I’m not on Facebook.  And I’m OK with that.