Some Facebook users quit over privacy concerns
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Friday, May 14, 2010 9:52AM EDT
Privacy and online security concerns appear to be fuelling a backlash against Facebook, leading more and more formerly faithful users of the social networking giant to delete their accounts.
Which isn't as easy as it sounds, according to tech expert Amber MacArthur.
Permanently deleting a Facebook account is a complicated process, involving several steps and a detailed knowledge of how the networking site works, she told CTV's Canada AM Friday.
MacArthur says that even making your Facebook page private can be a challenge.
"Facebook makes it very difficult for you to control your own privacy settings," she says. "They have a lot of things set up by default so that they're public … really they've made it so complicated to actually go in and manage your settings that you really need to know a lot about how Facebook works."
MacArthur says the site is full of personal information posted by its nearly 500 million users -- data that is worth money to Facebook.
"Facebook is probably the only social network online where people reveal so much accurate information about themselves. They put on their real names, their phone numbers, their birth dates," she says. "Facebook has a lot of sensitive information."
Facebook doesn't publish figures on how many people quit its network, but there has been an on-line uproar in recent weeks over a number of privacy bugs and security concerns.
And late last month, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a new feature called the "Open Graph," which ties Facebook to a number of other websites, allowing users' online preferences to be posted all over the Internet, instead of just on Facebook.com.
If you type in the phrase "How do I delete my Facebook account" on Google, the search returns more than 18 million page links.
Some former users have begun setting up an alternative to Facebook. Diaspora is a new network -- still in production -- that attempts to solve Facebook's privacy problem at the infrastructure layer by using a decentralized, peer-to-peer approach with no central servers.
The Diaspora project was announced last month and its founders' initial goal was to raise $10,000 in 39 days. It has so far raised over $106,000, suggesting there's significant support for a new social network with less baggage.
"There are a lot of people out there who do want an alternative," MacArthur says. "Right now it's sort of a fringe of users on Facebook who are leaving … (but) I think that Facebook is actually feeling the pressure from the users and they're feeling as though they need to make some changes."
Facebook has already begun introducing new security features to protect its users from Internet criminals looking to steal passwords and more.
To combat malicious attacks, phishing scams and spam, Facebook will soon allow users to ask to be notified by email or text message when their account is accessed from a computer or mobile device they haven't used before.
Facebook is also adding roadblocks when it notices unusual activity, such as simultaneous log-ins from opposite sides of the planet.
MacArthur says that ultimately, Facebook users have to take responsibility for guarding their information.
"At the end of the day none of us are paying for Facebook, so we really don't have a lot of rights on the site: they can do with our information what they want," she says.
"We shouldn't assume that our info is private on any of these sites … you need to protect your info on line: it's your responsibility."