Flying all over the intarwebs is an NYT article about Facebook– and how it is apparently the equivalent of a social networking roach motel; once you check in you can’t check out.
Are you a member of Facebook.com? You may have a lifetime contract. Some users have discovered that it is nearly impossible to remove themselves entirely from Facebook, setting off a fresh round of concern over the popular social networkâ€™s use of personal data. While the Web site offers users the option to deactivate their accounts, Facebook servers keep copies of the information in those accounts indefinitely.
The first flummoxed Facebooker quoted by la grey lady is brown!
â€œItâ€™s like the Hotel California,â€ said Nipon Das, 34, a director at a biotechnology consulting firm in Manhattan, who tried unsuccessfully to delete his account this fall. â€œYou can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.â€
It took Mr. Das about two months and several e-mail exchanges with Facebookâ€™s customer service representatives to erase most of his information from the site, which finally occurred after he sent an e-mail threatening legal action. But even after that, a reporter was able to find Mr. Dasâ€™s empty profile on Facebook and successfully sent him an e-mail message through the network.
I understand that Facebook is ostensibly attempting to keep the reactivation process zimble, should one change one’s mind about one’s participation in this timesuck, but one might still find this policy douchey. (Now who has U2 stuck in their head? Just me? Meh. You kids and your tatti taste in music.)
Facebookâ€™s Web site does not inform departing users that they must delete information from their account in order to close it fully â€” meaning that they may unwittingly leave anything from e-mail addresses to credit card numbers sitting on Facebook servers. Only people who contact Facebookâ€™s customer service department are informed that they must painstakingly delete, line by line, all of the profile information, â€œwallâ€ messages and group memberships they may have created within Facebook.
I love Facebook for its clean interface, glorious lack of blinking ads* and its illusions of privacy, but I am making the shame-shame gesture towards them for such selfish, self-damaging policies. You know the one. It’s the same one your Aunt made at you, when she caught you happily adjusting yourself too often. Or maybe that was just my little-cousin-who-is-not-related-but-with-only-three-other-desi-families-here-kinda-is.
If MySpaz and my quondam stomping grounds Friendster (2003-2007) let you delete your profile, that gives them one very significant advantage over Facebook. Who cares if you can play Scrabulous if you don’t have the right to walk away from the site? I have friends who are on the fence about joining Facebook and this article has pushed them right off– to the “no, thank you” side. Well-played.
â€œMost sites, even online dating sites, will give you an option to wipe your slate clean,â€ Mr. Das said.
Mr. Das, who joined Facebook on a whim after receiving invitations from friends, tried to leave after realizing that most of his co-workers were also on the site. â€œI work in a small office,â€ he said. â€œThe last thing I want is people going on there and checking out my private life.â€
â€œI did not want to be on it after junior associates at work whom I have to manage saw my stuff,â€ he added.
At first glance, it would seem to be in Facebook’s interest to flip us a collective bird, but is it? How much bad press and how many MoveOn.org protests do they want?
â€œThe thing they offer advertisers is that they can connect to groups of people. I can see why they wouldnâ€™t want to throw away anyoneâ€™s information, but thereâ€™s a conflict with privacy,â€ said Alan Burlison, 46, a British software engineer who succeeded in deleting his account only after he complained in the British press, to the countryâ€™s Information Commissionerâ€™s Office and to the TRUSTe organization, an online privacy network that has certified Facebook.
Mr. Burlisonâ€™s complaint spurred the Information Commissionerâ€™s Office, a privacy watchdog organization, to investigate Facebookâ€™s data-protection practices, the BBC reported last month. In response, Facebook issued a statement saying that its policy was in â€œfull compliance with U.K. data protection law.â€
If you want help with walking away from things in your own past, walking away from, walking away from things that just won’t last, there is actually a Facebook group devoted to helping you do exactly that; join “How to permanently delete your facebook account” and you/one will discover 4,763 members who feel the same way you do. . . .
*I hate ads. Much to my elation, this site does not have ads. I want one ad-free oasis in my wirtual life. No eye-bleed-inducing blinking, no weird animation, no pop-under-over-throughs, no offers for NetFlix or 1,728 ugly emoticons. No. Just mutiny, and nothing but some mutiny, k thx bai.