10 Security Reasons to Quit Facebook (And One Reason to Stay On)
You can't go a day without logging in to see what your friends are up to? Consider these reasons and you may decide to quit Facebook and reduce your risk.
By Joan Goodchild , Senior Editor
March 22, 2010 — CSO —
Last year, Baby Boomers quit Facebook at a faster pace than they joined.
That's according to data published last year by the site Inside Facebook. After a huge growth in Facebook membership among the over-55 age group took place at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009, that same demographic began to defect in large numbers, just months after signing up.
Boomers were the the only shrinking age demographic on the site. What do Boomers know that others don't? Boomers have discretion, according to Scott Wright, a security consultant based in Canada who also researches and writes about social media and security awareness on his site streetwise-security-zone.com.
While the numbers certainly continue to indicate that more people are joining Facebook than quitting, certain web sites that help people "kill" your online self have gained popularity, too. Facebook recently issued cease and desist orders to several of these sites, including one called Web 2.0 Suicide Machine.
Why would someone decide to sign off Facebook forever? Here are ten observations from security and privacy pros about the risks of social media.
Your privacy is history
Wright took part in a panel discussion recently on the topic of privacy and said he was intrigued by the opinion of one academic who pointed out that the notion of privacy differs widely among generations.
"The 20-something view of privacy is basically that their parents not see what they are doing. That's about it," said Wright.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg apparently agrees. Zuckerberg made controversial remarks to a live audience earlier this year at an awards event and stated that openly sharing information with many people is today's social norm. He went on to say "We view it as our role in the system to constantly be innovating and be updating what our system is to reflect what the current social norms are." Many have translated this to mean Facebook doesn't think its users want much privacy, and the policies of the site reflect that view.
Whether Zuckerberg is right or wrong depends on who you ask. And that leaves us to consider: As younger generations define privacy in new ways, it really good for us? Bethan Tuttle, an Washington-based independent consultant and privacy advocate, says no. Tuttle said she is concerned about some of the newer changes to Facebook that force users to share certain information because, in her words, without privacy, we don't have civil liberties.
"If you can't maintain privacy online and off, then you can't speak freely," said Tuttle. "These security issues need to be addressed in such a way that our privacy can be protected."
Tuttle thinks the massive and quick growth Facebook has experienced in the last two years, coupled with a lack of privacy-centric leadership has left end user privacy as casualty. (Read more in Six Ways We Gave Up Our Privacy.)
They don't have your best interests in mind
As Tom Eston, creator of the web site socialmediasecurity.com points out, the very business model Facebook, and other social networking sites like Twitter, stands on is making user information as public as possible in order to generate new ways to make money.
"They are really startups if you think about it. They don't have a true business model," said Eston. "Their philosophy is the more you share, the more information they have to make money with."
With that in mind, can you really count on them to protect you? And do you know just how much information you are sharing that can be used not only by Facebook, but by the application developers that create those fun quizzes and games? Wright says most people don't.
Case in point: A quiz designed by the ACLU that shows Facebook users just how much information they hand over to application developers every time they agree to install a new app. Want to take that quiz to find out who you were in a past life? Each time you do, almost everything on your profile, even if you use privacy settings to limit access, is made available to the creators of that application.