I used to like Facebook. Oh, its security and constantly changing privacy protection was a bad joke, but it was still the best way to find and keep in touch with old friends from high school (Hi Cathy!) and the like. That was then. This is now.
It was bad enough that Facebook tries to harvest your phone number, in the new Facebook Open Graph platform you can share all kinds of usage data with your advertisers... uh friends. With the new Facebook, you can automatically share what movies you're watching on Netflix, what music you're listening to on Spotify, and what's you're reading on Flipboard.
Privacy aside, I don't care for Facebook's new non-stop news-streaming ticker, either. Does anyone really want to know everything I watch, listen to, and read? Neither my wife nor daughter do. I can think of two groups, though, that would find all my information endlessly interesting: Advertisers and competitors. You may want AT&T, Exxon, and Microsoft to keep tabs on your every move; I don't.
It's your choice, though. Yes, it is, if you can figure out what your choices really are on Facebook.
You see, Facebook makes protecting your privacy a constantly changing maze. The best guide I know, The Definitive Facebook Lockdown Guide, has to be updated every few months. The latest edition, September 2011, is already out of date.
Now Facebook has made it possible, using its beta Timeline view, to see who's unfriended you. That's one idea that will cause havoc in friends and family circles around the room. Thanks Facebook, we needed that feature.
At this time, you can't hide your un-friending tracks, but there's far more worrying stuff. Let's say you log out of Facebook. You'd think Facebook wouldn't be tracking you right? Wrong.
According to hacker Nik Cubrilovic, the application programming interface (API) Facebook uses to allow applications to post status items to your Facebook timeline, aka frictionless sharing, doesn't require your explicit permission. We knew that. What we didn't know is that, Cubrilovic writes, Facebook has long been tracking your every move on the net.
Cubrilovic discovered that Facebook keeps Web cookies alive on your Web browser even after you've logged out of Facebook. As he writes, “With my browser logged out of Facebook, whenever I visit any page with a Facebook like button, or share button, or any other widget, the information, including my account ID, is still being sent to Facebook. The only solution to Facebook not knowing who you are is to delete all Facebook cookies.” I'll go farther, with frictionless sharing, the only way to keep Facebook and friends out of your business, is to stop using Facebook.
That's exactly what I'm planning on doing. Say what you will about Google and its privacy practices, Google makes controlling your information on its social network, Google+, much easier than Facebook does. Google even makes it easy for you to access and download your data with Google Takeout. Prying your own information out of Facebook, though, is like pulling your own teeth with a rusty pair of pliers.
As Facebook grows ever more invasive or your privacy, and sneakier still about how it does it, I can only recommend that personally you start weaning yourself off it. As for your business, I'd block Facebook from all your corporate PCs. While Facebook's main customers are advertisers, how much trouble would it really be for Zuckerberg to let someone start data-mining all your employees' Facebook Web-related activities for a sufficiently lucrative fee? The answer: No trouble at all.