Is It Time to Ditch Facebook?

A new poll by Sophos found that 60% of the 1,588 respondents are thinking of closing their Facebook accounts, as controversy over its privacy practices (or lack thereof) continues to surface. Facebook privacy issues are not new, and the past couple of years have witnessed numerous privacy scares, mostly in correlation with Facebook’s rise to social networking prominence.

Sophos, the security firm, admitted that the poll was not even scientific, and the statistic that would probably be more interesting is the one that shows how many Facebook users even know about the privacy controversies.  Moreover, the users who took the Sophos poll were visitors to their site, indicating they already had concerns about security.

Still, the poll results do raise some interesting questions, especially in light of the latest Wall Street Journal report that some social networking sites, including Facebook and MySpace, were giving out user names  to ad companies without permission. Many Facebook users seem unaware of how to even configure the boatload of options necessary to secure privacy. While some may be comfortable sharing their photo albums, others may not, and Facebook has an option for each and every component.

Nevertheless, other Facebook users are not concerned. They knew information on Facebook was not secure in the first place. Some even use it as a platform to express their ideas and want as many people as possible to view everything they post. “Nothing on the Internet is secure,” one user argued.

Perhaps those who expect Facebook to protect their privacy are expecting too much from a commercial Internet company that is in the business of sharing information.  Still, if Facebook is to maintain its current spot as king of the social networking hill, it will have to at least appease its users’ fears, even if their promises of privacy protection are disingenuous.

Maybe a more relevant poll question is: “Would you post private information on Facebook?” In an age when people are losing their jobs because they publish about each and every miniscule detail of their lives, online for the entire world to see, privacy for many means credit cards and social security numbers, not Facebook photos and instant messages.

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I am a librarian with 8 years of experience in information architecture, technology, free and open source software, and electronic publishing. I have written hundreds of articles on topics ranging from information technology to politics. I also write fiction novels, short stories, and fables.

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