Facebook users are deleting their accounts over site’s privacy policy issues: Are you?

Quit Facebook Day is calling for people to quit using Facebook on May 31 in response to the latest round of Facebook privacy changes. There is even a Facebook page devoted to the cause. “If you agree that Facebook doesn’t respect you, your personal data or the future of the Web, you may want to join us,” QuitFacebookDay.com explains.
Do you know all the privacy changes? This truly is a case of what you don’t know will hurt you, so be sure to find out the changes, how to use them to protect yourself and how to delete your facebook account.

Facebook, the social networking site that reports over 400 million users, has again been under scrutiny for changes made to its privacy policy. Facebook’s updated privacy policy now allows the site to post user activity on partner sites to the News Feeds of friends. In 2007, Facebook launched the “Beacon” application, which was also capable of connecting to advertisers’ external web pages, recording the activity of a user (e.g., Ebay purchase), and then reporting this activity to others (1). In addition, advertisers could target Facebook Ads to user information listed on Facebook user profiles. They could also access tracking and analytics information concerning which users were being reached by certain ads and what are their purchase trends.
Due to a massive public outcry, as well as a lawsuit, Facebook ended the “Beacon” application in November 2009 (2). It also paid $9.5 million in a court settlement, with a good portion of the money being issued as grants to organizations that research online privacy.
However, the “Beacon” application has not been the only privacy issue for Facebook. Recently, the social networking site experienced several privacy bugs, one of which included the publishing of private chat conversations to Facebook Friend pages (3). Facebook also changed its privacy policy in order to launch the Open Graph API, which allows more user information to be set as public by default (4). The Open Graph API was announced by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook’s F8 developer conference (5). Zuckerberg informed attendees that the old policy of Facebook storing and caching data for no more than 24 hours would be eliminated. In other words, user information would be stored on a more permanent basis, allowing other social media sites such as Yelp and Pandora to connect to and scan Facebook user information.
Bret Taylor, the Facebook Director of Platform Product, announced and demonstrated several “social plugins” for Facebook partner sites, including a “like” button that could be installed on a partner site and then used to communicate a Facebook member’s approval of a certain product or news item located on the Web back to Facebook. Another plugin would show a Facebook user’s activity on a third party site. Finally, a “recommendations” plugin would provide suggested content from a Facebook user to other Facebook users.
Not everyone has been happy about Facebook’s privacy policy changes and its attempts to track what users are doing on the Web and on various third party sites. Certain Facebook users, such as the writer/editor Peter Rojas, announced that they would be deactivating their Facebook profile (6). Technology blogs have been posting discussions about whether or not Facebook users should delete their accounts, and even including instructions on how one can go about deleting a Facebook account.
Unfortunately, it is not that easy to delete a Facebook account. On its privacy page, Facebook does offer instructions for deactivating a user account, but then states that when a user deactivates his or her account, Facebook will still hold onto that user’s pictures and postings. Deleting a Facebook account ensures that all of one’s pictures and posts are gone, but doing so also requires that one look through the entire privacy page in order to find out how to correctly complete this step. In some cases, users have better luck going to outside sources, such as WikiHow (7), when trying to permanently delete a Facebook account.
Users who simply wish to change their privacy settings so that Facebook does not show as much of their
personal information have an even harder time completing such a task. In some cases, users must go to outside news reporting sites in order to successfully hide their online purchase histories or their personal likes (6). Part of the problem is that Facebook offers 50 different privacy settings with over 170 options (8). This maze has been a source of frustration for many Facebook users who wish to remain with the social networking site without compromising their privacy.
The question of how many Facebook users will end up leaving Facebook is still uncertain. However, as well-known technology pundits, writers, and editors continue to criticize Facebook and delete their accounts, such maneuvers may inspire the social media giant to rethink its privacy policy.
1. Facebook Ads makes a flashy debut in New York http://news.cnet.com/8301-13577_3-9811932-36.html
2. Judge Approves $9.5 Million Facebook ‘Beacon’ Accord http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/03/facebook-beacon-2/
3. Facebook fixes security bug in chat program http://scitech.blogs.cnn.com/2010/05/05/blog-finds-possible-security-flaw-in-facebook-chat/
4. Understanding Facebook’s privacy aftershocks http://edition.cnn.com/2010/TECH/05/07/cnet.facebook.privacy/index.html
5. Facebook F8: One graph to rule them all http://news.cnet.com/8301-13577_3-20003053-36.html?cnn=yes
6. Some quitting Facebook as privacy concerns escalate http://edition.cnn.com/2010/TECH/05/13/facebook.delete.privacy/index.html?eref=edition
7. How to Permanently Delete a Facebook Account http://www.wikihow.com/Permanently-Delete-a-Facebook-Account
8. Facebook Privacy: A Bewildering Tangle of Options http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/05/12/business/facebook-privacy.html
Thank you to our visiting author, Halina Zakowicz (Hally Z.), a featured Business & Finance contributor on Associated Content. She also owns and operates Your Money and Debt, a personal finance blog.


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