Why I'm not quitting Facebook...

Vitruve Man

… and I’m neither saying you should, nor you shouldn’t.

Apparently, it's Quit Facebook Day. The interwebs have been raging with angry articles about facebook, how it's turning evil, and violating people's privacy, etc. My personal opinion is that you're the best and only guardian of your own privacy.

How it began

The first time I heard about facebook was at Wikimania, in Taipei, in Summer 2007. My friend Delphine was telling me how wonderful it was, because you could use it to centralize your other sharing platforms like your personal blog, twitter (microblogging), flickr (photos), etc.

At first, I was really skeptical, because I didn't see the point. I was like « I don't need yet another social site to update and check ». A few months later, I caved and joined.

It's hard for me to clearly remember my first steps on facebook, because I've become an avid user since then. I do remember, though, I've never really been fond of the games, quizzes and other farmvilles.

On the other hand, I've been truly amazed by the number of acquaintances I've been able to find on facebook; people from college, university, high school, junior high school, and even elementary school. I've traveled quite a bit during the past 15 years, and it hasn't been easy to keep in touch. All weren't close friends, but it was nice to chat again, and meet some of them again "in real life".

The real issue: Privacy literacy

When I joined facebook in late 2007, I was already quite computer- and Internet-literate. I had been a Wikipedian for a few years then, and I knew The Internet Never Forgets. I had realized whatever I ever wrote in a comment, a blog article, a forum, a mailing list, or a 140-character microblog might one day be dug up or made public.

My use of facebook has also been influenced by my liberal "friendship policy". As a Wikimedian, I interact with a lot of people online that I've never met in real life. Some of them use weird pseudonyms or bizarre animal personae. Yet, I'm closer to some of them than to some classmates from high school. We share a common, powerful passion for free knowledge.

As a consequence, I've been using facebook as a microblogging platform. Like twitter or identica, but with many more people, some of them being old acquaintances who would never join twitter.

I knew anything I would put on facebook could end up being seen by people I didn't know that well. I also knew not all my « friends » were as computer-, Internet-literate and privacy-aware as me. I knew they could, at any time, inadvertently disclose information and content I was sharing with them. So I've been cautious about what I've been disclosing over the years.

Protect your own privacy

Yes, Facebook is evil, and changed the rules during the game. So what? Facebook is only a tool, and it's useful to me; I don't consider anything I share on Facebook will always stay private, so I adapt my use of the tool.

You're the best and only safekeeper of your own privacy. What you want to stay private, you don't publish online on a third-party website; you use private means of communications.

I value privacy, and I protect my own. I do so by choosing what I disclose, and whom I entrust it with. I agree not everybody is aware of their privacy (or lack thereof) on the Internet. That's a larger problem than facebook; the current facebook drama is just a symptom of the issue.

Oh, and of course, I'm definitely keeping a very interested eye on better alternatives like Diaspora.