Facebook loves us a little too much.

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 network’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!

“It’s like the Hotel California,” said Nipon Das, 34, a director at a biotechnology consulting firm in Manhattan, who tried unsuccessfully to delete his account this fall. “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”
It took Mr. Das about two months and several e-mail exchanges with Facebook’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. Das’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.)

Facebook’s Web site does not inform departing users that they must delete information from their account in order to close it fully — meaning that they may unwittingly leave anything from e-mail addresses to credit card numbers sitting on Facebook servers. Only people who contact Facebook’s customer service department are informed that they must painstakingly delete, line by line, all of the profile information, “wall” 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.

“Most sites, even online dating sites, will give you an option to wipe your slate clean,” 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. “I work in a small office,” he said. “The last thing I want is people going on there and checking out my private life.”
“I did not want to be on it after junior associates at work whom I have to manage saw my stuff,” 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?

“The thing they offer advertisers is that they can connect to groups of people. I can see why they wouldn’t want to throw away anyone’s information, but there’s a conflict with privacy,” said Alan Burlison, 46, a British software engineer who succeeded in deleting his account only after he complained in the British press, to the country’s Information Commissioner’s Office and to the TRUSTe organization, an online privacy network that has certified Facebook.
Mr. Burlison’s complaint spurred the Information Commissioner’s Office, a privacy watchdog organization, to investigate Facebook’s data-protection practices, the BBC reported last month. In response, Facebook issued a statement saying that its policy was in “full compliance with U.K. data protection law.”

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.

42 thoughts on “Facebook loves us a little too much.

  1. Hey, I’m in no mood to delete my profile. It’s my favorite snp, ever. :)

    Speaking of, beloved SMers, if you have added me and I haven’t acted, it’s only because “Amit Patel” does not ring a bell. When you tell me you comment on SM as “GujuGotti” or you lurk, then I happily add your mutinous kundi. Message a blogger, would ya?

  2. Facebook is now banned at work and not allowed on our work laptops :(

    I guess it was just a matter of time until they realized how addictive it can be….

  3. Bwahahahaa. The nefarious eternally-retaining-information-tracking revolution will not be Facebook-ized. Too bad for most of us suckahs who are membahs.

  4. I’ve managed to avoid FB for this long, and now seeing this, am glad that I did. When I went to check it out, I saw that it’s been banned at our office as well. shrug

  5. I joined FB a couple of years ago using an old college email address. In retrospect a huge mistake – especially when an ex track you down. Have been trying to delete the whole account one step at a time.

  6. A lot of Facebook is absolutely boring. Most of the applications are inane junk and I don’t know why people invite everyone in their list for every little application they discover – there is a ‘skip’ button you know. As for status of people, if they are good friends I know what’s going in their life no thanks to facebook and if they are not, then I could care less about the minutiae of their lives like which side of the bed they woke up on and such.. The only thing I like is exchanging one liners with acquaintances and thus stay in touch and read the links posted by people.And oh, it helps me keep track of tours by artists I like – now that feature I like!

  7. I don’t think most people on the internets realize that anything embarrassing you post on a public server never goes away. Literally, it never goes away. This page will never go away. It will stay on this site, or if SM deletes it’s pages, someone else is going to cache it.

    Once, I made a stupid mistake of posting a drunken poem on Usenet using my office email address. Something about ducks as a euphemism for lovers who jilt you. I forgot about it the next morning. The poem turned up on Google Groups 5 years later. My new bride googled me and the duck poem came up. She’s like “What are you? A freak? I should have married that Guju doctor from Chicago” I’m like “Wasn’t me!!. Someone stole my password!”

    I wrote an email to google asking them to remove the post, but they wouldn;t because I was using a differrent email address. They removed it after I signed an affadavit saying that I’m the same person as that poster, and I didn’t write that post. But guess what? they removed my post, but didn;t remove the 1001 people who replied to that thread, quoting me in every reply. So, my duck poem is quacking all over internet now, and for a while when you googled my name on google groups that poem came up on the first page. Now it’s on the second page.

    I don’t know how many people google me, find the duck poem and run away. No wonder I had terrible time dating …. hmmm

  8. I think people have to get used to the idea that companies like Facebook are not giving anything free. They show you ads and learn your use pattern (which can be converted to money in various ways) and in turn they give you services. Personally, I like FB because it lets me keep in touch with some of my old friends. In the process, I am very well aware that my privacy is compromised; There is no such a thing as a free lunch :)

  9. So how many people have outed there username here on Facebook. I was the 1st and last time I checked only a couple of others have

    Instead last time I checked all people on the wall were talking about some Modi guy who a polictican from Gurjarat. I would rather see people out themselves on the sepia mutiny facebook wall, then bitch and moan about some middle aged guy.

  10. 8 · maxdavinci said

    Any new addictive facebook apps?

    It’s not new, but I am addicted to the New York Times news quiz. Love, love, love it. I’m sad that it’s only M-F, I love it so much. :)

    Yeah, I’ve heard the “I know everything I need to know about close-enough friends, don’t need to know about others“-logic before, but my friends are as busy as I am and they reside in every city besides DC…so it’s nice to be networked a little closer. I don’t have time to email a polite missive to everyone I care about and ask what is new in their life on a weekly basis.

    I can, however, scan the status link and see that JK just bought her first home and that SP is taking a last-minute trip to Tampa. Then I can hit up their walls and type a quick “Congrats! :D ” to the former and a “Go HERE for the best Gelato of your life”, for the latter. It’s not perfect and I know others who don’t find it as useful, but for me, it’s great.

    And yes, you’d better be quacking careful about what you write on the interweb. :) [pagla, your story had me going "awwww".]

  11. I don’t know how many people google me, find the duck poem and run away. No wonder I had terrible time dating …. hmmm

    Haha! funny story – and not surprising given that desis have these ooak names

    but it works in one’s favor as well. dont know about the dating scene, but it’s helped me in business transactions. people like to know a little bit about the person (not too much. just enough) to build a personality around the name, and not on what’s presented by way of a bio or annual statement. i didnt realize it until later when someone casually mentioned a letter i’d written to an editor that it had helped to be seen as a person.

    reg facebook. it’s creepy guys. get out while ye can.

  12. Once, I made a stupid mistake of posting a drunken poem on Usenet using my office email address. Something about ducks as a euphemism for lovers who jilt you.

    Damn you, Pagla! Now I’m tempted to spend a few hours this evening to dig this poem up on Google, one apparently scary enough to scare an easily scared bride. Is there some way that you could post the poem here without outing yourself?

  13. I just can’t understand how FB is useful to anyone older than 20. All it seems to bring is misery.

    Also is SM trying to be the next FB by exasperating users? Why does the tip suggestion section need a sign in? I wanted to link to a news item and got the sign in message. Please reconsider this change.

  14. She’s like “What are you? A freak? I should have married that Guju doctor from Chicago”

    Poor bride, apparently wanted to marry a doctor, and married a quack instead!

    /I keed, I keed! :D

  15. When I had myspace I had to make it private once I started interviewing for jobs because even though I think I look awesome in that picture of me hanging half-way out of the car on the open highway I didn’t know that the guy or gal interviewing me would agree. It also prevented (for the most part) the creepsters who myspace stalk.

    But why am I talking about myspace for anyways, that was SO 2006 :)

  16. 21 · Malibu Stacy said

    Also is SM trying to be the next FB by exasperating users? Why does the tip suggestion section need a sign in? I wanted to link to a news item and got the sign in message. Please reconsider this change.

    We implemented that “change” because we all have day jobs. The news tab requires moderation, even with the system you find exasperating. Think of how bad it was before we discouraged the trolling with a simple TypeKey system, which is used on many popular blogs.

    Before we had a News Tab, we had a tip line. If you find signing in problematic, you are welcome to email tips to us.

  17. Any new addictive facebook apps?

    Oregon Trail and the TV Trivia quiz – my Achilles Heel.

  18. 26 · Fuerza Dulce said

    Oregon Trail and the TV Trivia quiz – my Achilles Heel.

    OH! I totally forgot– one more addictive app…Car IQ. It’s so difficult, because sometimes, all you see is part of an engine or a brake light and you have to identify make, model and year. Much to my shock and dismay, I am almost 100% with nailing classic ‘vettes (actually, I’m great with almost all classic American cars…the newer “import” models…not so much).

    If you’re as auto-philic as I am, it is definitely addictive (and challenging…you may be able to discern that the right headlight pictured belongs to a BMW E46…but which year? :)

  19. all you see is part of an engine or a break light and you have to identify make, model and year. Much to my shock and dismay, I am almost 100% with nailing classic ‘vettes

    What about Buick skylarks?

  20. If you’re as auto-philic as I am

    You’re like Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor’s dream girl!

  21. 29 · Rahul said

    What about Buick skylarks?

    If I had a dollar for every time that, Clueless or Legally Blonde has been brought up… :)

    You’re like Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor’s *dream* girl!

    Nah, the white mens, they hates me. ;)

  22. Facebook stalking is serious and with Apps being coded by idiots all over the place your personal data isn’t very safe.

    Privacy / Applications and Ads setting —> this needs to be all set to lowest possible, if not anything you post is now public and facebook is not legally liable…you ask those kids who got fired from law firms about the pot photos their idiot HS friends posted 5 year later…

    Also BTW, if you don’t change those settings, Facebook will sell your info!!!

  23. For full disclosure: I never signed up for facebook, nor have I ever had a myspace, friendster, etc. account. I suppose my take on the whole thing has always been if I really wanted to keep in touch, I would have (either that or I will find a way to get in touch with you). My email address hasn’t changed in 12 years, so people know how to contact me.

    That having been said, a friend not too long ago called me and said “hey, why haven’t you replied to me on Facebook?” Naturally, I was surprised since I have no account, but later on found out that indeed I DID have an account, albeit one I had not created. After doing a little snooping about, I found out that a 3rd party had in fact made the page for me because this person “felt I should have one anyone/ it’s in my best interests”. I wrote a polite, yet firm, email to facebook and now am no longer listed on the site. To this day, I have no idea about exactly what was on my “page” since not having created it I had no password to even log in and access it.

    My main concern with these sites is and always has been exactly that this sort of thing is possible. If you want to post pictures of yourself piss-drunk or running around pants-less, that’s fine with me, but I have a career in which my public image is critical (teacher), and some of my students actually tried to “friend” me on facebook. I shudder to think of the potential damage that could have been done to my reputation if this 3rd party had decided “hey, wouldn’t it be cool to make up stories about how he likes_________”. As previous posters have said, in this day and age what you post to the internet stays forever.

    Fortunately this person was not malicious, but had they been it could have REALLY hurt me before I even found out about it and then had to convince everyone it “wasn’t me, but a third party who was pretending to be me in order to ruin my rep!” like that ever works.

    Bottom line: be wary, and even if you DON’T have a facebook page, have friends search your name and make sure someone hasn’t decided to make one for you.

  24. 22 · pingpong said

    She’s like “What are you? A freak? I should have married that Guju doctor from Chicago”
    Poor bride, apparently wanted to marry a doctor, and married a quack instead! /I keed, I keed! :D

    That was good. Made me quack a smile.

  25. Just a random comment, but I hope MoveOn doesn’t make this an issue this winter! There’s way too many other things they should be focusing on…leave this to the consumer.

  26. The popularity of Facebook is a sad commentary on what has become of our society. Are we really that superficial and judgemental? Aren’t our lives and our views too complex to be boiled down into 3 word sentences? It’s sad. I hope Facebook dies out and we can get back to, you know, actually meeting each other in person and…”talking”.

  27. I like facebook, you know you are living in extra ordinary times when someone tells you

    “don’t worry I’ll facebook you”

    its crazy, like when people use predictive text, and when people said things were “BOOK” instead of cool.

    Of course nothing beats meeting people in the flesh, actually using all the senses you have, and holding what can be called a conversation. Communicating.

    Get one of you blogger’s based in London so we can have more London meetups. I know it is a north American Blog but we can look past that.

    Biggups and respect to Vinod for the first one. J

  28. 38 · Sawan said

    The popularity of Facebook is a sad commentary on what has become of our society. Are we really that superficial and judgemental?

    No, but you seem judgmental. Your distaste for Facebook doesn’t prove that it is contributing to the fall of civilization.

  29. Facebook may have its flaws (what doesn’t?), but I still like it.

    The way I look at it is this: life is complex and people are busier than they used to be in previous eras. Many of us don’t get to socialize as much as we’d like. And it’s amazing how fast you can lose touch with people nowadays when everyone is so very mobile–they can move to another state or even to another continent. It’s maddening. So, maybe because of times like these, social networking sites are so popular. Because we need them now.

    This is, of course, my own opinion. ;-) I could be wrong. Maybe keeping in touch with people really will cause our civilization to collapse?