Last year, I joined a group for my neighborhood homeowners’ association. At some point FB quietly tweaked its group privacy settings so my membership in that group started showing up as public info on my profile. It was six months before I noticed–and so for six months, anyone in the world could see exactly where I lived. I’ve read about the same privacy setting on Facebook outing gay people. Awful.
Stuff like that keeps happening. As I posted about a few days ago, I learned that an old friend had a stroke. I was on an iPod Touch (very easy to mis-click) and I accidentally hit “Like on Facebook” on a completely unrelated web page. The next morning I woke up and it was all over my Timeline that I “liked” a page on “recovering from stroke.” Whoa.
Facebook “knows” via my activity, that I have sent messages and made posts about cancer. It “knows” I recently got married. It even knows I want to sell my teenaged Toyota Corolla. So I get blasted with constant ads for cancer treatment, baby stuff, and Toyota Corollas. It’s incredibly intrusive. It’s only on the surface that Facebook is a site designed to keep in touch; its real purpose is to extract the maximum possible personal information from its members and exploit that information to sell ad space.
So…why don’t I quit? I would, if all my friends and family did, but for the moment I’m stuck. Turning off Facebook is like turning off your phone; you become impossible to contact. If you deactivate, people get scared about whether you “unfriended” them. And then there’s mostly this; for all Facebook’s intrusions into my privacy, there are people in my life with whom Facebook is the easiest and best way to keep in touch. So my Facebook stays.
Isn’t it scary that a for-profit web site has insinuated itself so deeply into daily life, though? And am I the only one who’s scared?