I just pulled the plug on my Facebook account. My author pages are gone and won’t be coming back.
This is actually something I’ve been considering doing for some time. I was reluctant to open the account initially, but I’d heard all the ‘must haves’ of promo and a Facebook page was right up there at the top of the list. So I opened it.
But… really… from the beginning… I had concerns. Concerns which have been repeatedly validated over time. And they all revolve around privacy and how much control I have over my information.
We all know, or at least I hope we all know, that nothing in the internet is truly private. Anything you post online, even within supposedly secure circles hold the potential to be used against you.
Facebook’s constant adjustment of privacy policies is internet cannon. What is protected today might be forced into the public later. Just in the past year, accounts which were voluntarily hidden from public searches became searchable, revealing enough information to give anyone with internet access the ability to find the account and grab some personal data and an image. There is no reason to expect this trend to stop. And while users may adjust their Facebook activity in the future, there is no guarantee that what is already in their system will be protected from public consumption.
Another privacy concern for me was Facebook’s image tagging and how the facial recognition information was used. This concern was raised for me when I saw a news report (I cannot find the report online. Information about it is strictly from memory and may be faulty.) Which suggested the company collecting the information could sell it to other services. One suggested application, a company which would allow you to take a photo with your phone’s camera and identify a stranger in a crowd. Because the bar scene isn’t creepy enough. Disabling tagging was offered, and I didn’t post pictures of me or my kids, but friends don’t have the same level of concern as I and posted images of both me and my kids, sans tags.
Another issue for authors, if you’re trying to keep your legal name private, having it pop up as a possible tag in that author signing or convention photo would be problematic. Or the reverse, if your family doesn’t know your pen name. I’ll be blunt. There is a reason I have a pen name. Writer me and real me don’t travel in the same circles and I like it that way. I don’t need Facebook screwing things up so they can make a profit.
The final straw for me came yesterday. Facebook has announced they are launching a new targeted ad program, which are supposedly designed to give you a better ad experience. While they are quick to assure you that you can opt out of the ads, the third-party company who is actually doing the information gathering seems to imply you are just opting you out of the ads, not the information tracking. Not only that, but the process of opting out required you to relax your cookie security to take their third-party cookies, making your computer less secure against malware and other tracking cookies. It’s a no-win situation.
I’ve always been very cautious about my internet security. I check my firewalls, scan for viruses and malware. I don’t post many pictures of me online, don’t use my legal name, use as much blocking and privacy protection as I can dig up. The sad fact is, the internet is not a place where privacy can be maintained. Even “anonymous” postings and sock puppet accounts can be traced to a geographic location and even a particular computer pretty easily.
Being online is a measured risk. I’ve decided that continuing to use Facebook is simply too much risk to justify.