We’re scaling back our Facebook activities

If you’ve been reading my posts recently you are aware of (and perhaps share) my concerns about Facebook’s inroads into users’ privacy and, specifically, erosion of users’ choices about how public or private their personal information should be. The growing privacy trend may well be towards greater publicity as Mark Zuckerberg has contended but its not for Facebook to unilaterally make these profound decisions for their users. Robert Scoble, a well known Web maven, recently wrote about how he wishes Facebook were more open. He lives his life in public and that is an intriguing way to live your life but he misses the point. The more I think about it the more I believe that the fundamental problem with Facebook’s approach to privacy is that it disregards its users’ right to choose their level of exposure to the public Web.

Facebook’s representatives talk about how their are making it easier for users to connect to each other, share things with each other and find content customized for them through the recently announced Open Graph API. What they don’t talk about is the labyrinthine privacy controls which include loopholes enabling friends to share your profile information outside your own privacy settings or how the new panels users are presented with to authorize connections to their Facebook profiles are all-or-nothing options. Faced with these panels, users are probably more likely to agree than they are to refuse access and in the absence of a degree of granularity in their choices, Facebook’s personal information grab progresses.

There is growing dissatisfaction with Facebook’s privacy moves as more and more people explore the ramifications of Facebook’s developments (take a look at the headlines Jason Calacanis lists in his post on this topic). A number of relatively high profile individuals are publicly disabling or even deleting their Facebook profiles as a result. The challenge is that Facebook is so big that removing yourself from its ecosystem means opting out of a significant community of users. That can have an impact on a business that uses Facebook to promote itself.

We discussed our Facebook page internally and the extent to which we promote that page to our clients and followers. Facebook represents a noticeable traffic source to our main site but our reservations about Facebook require us to give careful thought to how much we promote our page. We’ve decided to retain our page and continue posting our blog posts to the page as a distribution channel. We’ll also retain the “Recommend” button on our sidebar for the time being. We have removed the “Join us on Facebook” link we had in our main menubar though. It may not seem like much of a change but it is a start as we further evaluate the merits of remaining on Facebook. One reason to retain a presence on Facebook is keep our page open as a channel for our posts in which we highlight the risks of using Facebook.

The question whether to maintain a presence on Facebook is a difficult one and until their is a comparable alternative, it remains a challenge.

Published by Paul Jacobson

Enthusiast, writer, Happiness Engineer at @automattic. I take photos too. Passionate about my wife, Gina and #proudDad.

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