TechCrunch explains how Facebook is getting even worse

Yesterday on Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow posted a link to an article on TechCrunch, breaking down the ways that Facebook's new app interface is more manipulative and dishonest than their previous ones.  I haven't actually seen the new interface, because I've logged into Facebook about three times this month, and that was only to check for messages after someone told me they'd sent one. The article, 5 Design Tricks Facebook Uses To Affect Your Privacy Decisions, is an easy read, and has accompanying pictures to illustrate the problems.  The writer, Avi Charkham, points out:

Facebook keeps “improving” their design so that more of us will add apps on Facebook without realizing we’re granting those apps (and their creators) access to our personal information. After all, this access to our information and identity is the currency Facebook is trading in and what is driving its stock up or down.

Facebook's stock has not been doing well since the company went public.  It seems like the company's approach to solving this problem is going to be to try and extract even more personal information from its users.

For the record, Tumblr, Reddit and Twitter all have a very good track record for not exploiting their users.  If you're not ready to quit Facebook, a good first step is picking some of these other sites and getting active on them, as well.  Get your friends to do it, too.  Diversify your social presence online.  That way, no one service can hold hostage relationships that are important to you.

Forbes illuminates cultural bias towards Facebook

(via Reddit) Following the Aurora, CO shooting, one of the points that have been raised is that the shooter didn't have a Facebook page. He wasn't on any social network, in fact, except Adult Friend Finder.  Slashdot has pointed out an article that highlights the fact that mass-shooter Anders Breivik was on MySpace, rather than Facebook.

Forbes expands on these arguments, pointing out that not having a Facebook is becoming an acceptable red flag for people across culture:

It’s not just love seekers who worry about what the lack of a Facebook account means. Anecdotally, I’ve heard both job seekers and employers wonder aloud about what it means if a job candidate doesn’t have a Facebook account. Does it mean they deactivated it because it was full of red flags? Are they hiding something?

[...]

But it does seem that increasingly, it’s expected that everyone is on Facebook in some capacity, and that a negative assumption is starting to arise about those who reject the Big Blue Giant’s siren call. Continuing to navigate life without having this digital form of identification may be like trying to get into a bar without a driver’s license.

This article hasn't dissuaded me from leaving Facebook, still scheduled for the end of this month.  In fact, it only bolsters my motivation to leave -- we've let one private company take such dramatic control over our social lives that it's transcended being convenient to have an account -- it's become a liability not to.

It's not okay for one private company to have this kind of grip on the social lives of people.  It's becoming more and more clear that the internet and social networks are more like a utility (like water or electricity) than a free-market product (like McDonald's or motorcycles.)

Facebook gets away with massive ethical violations all the time because we let it have that much leverage on our lives.  I strongly urge my readers to leave Facebook, and diversify into other social networks.  Get on Tumblr, Reddit, Google+, Twitter, get your social needs met in a variety of places so that if any one starts trying to control your social life or abuse your trust you can drop out of it without disrupting your social web.

Twitter's horrible ethical call

(via Boing Boing) Having just announced that I'm leaving Facebook, and having listed Twitter as an ethically superior alternative, I feel it would be irresponsible of me not to write about Twitter's blatant ethical breach that the Guardian wrote about last night:

Twitter has suspended the account of a British journalist who tweeted the corporate email address of an NBC executive. The reporter, Guy Adams of the Independent, has been acerbic in his criticisms of NBC's (awful) performance during the Olympics in London.

Adams has posted his correspondence with Twitter, which claims he published a private email address. It was nothing of the kind, as many, including the Deadspin sports blog, have pointed out.

This would be an irresponsible decision even in isolation, but Twitter is partnered with NBC for Olympics coverage, and according to the Wall Street Journal, they're hoping to use this opportunity to expand into a more profitable audience.

If [they don't apologize and reinstate the account], this is a defining moment for Twitter. It will have demonstrated that it can be bullied by its business partners into acts that damage its credibility and ultimately the reason so many of us use it as a platform. And if that's the case, there will be much less incentive to use it.

Guy Adams's account was unsuspended literally while I was writing this post.