Dear Facebook

I got 4 main reasons why I do not use you and I will try to explain these quite thoroughly.

1. Personal reasons

I don’t like the idea that my entire social life should revolve around the Internet. Some things I do are only known by my best friends and this is the way it should be. I’m not very complicated, neither do I have a lot of secrets, but getting birthday cards because someone cares is so much more romantic than because facebook said so.

By xkcd.com

2. Ethical reasons

If the previous reason, which I think is not sufficient for persistently rejecting facebook, would not be applicable to you, there are some ethical reasons. Privacy is a human right and a company who’s changing its privacy policy at least once in two weeks is violating those. If anyone knows what facebook’s privacy policy is today (not tomorrow/yesterday), please let me know.

You can’t step out whenever you’d like to. Your data is saved and any attempt to delete your data will be fought. (eg. Web 2.0 suicide machine got blocked)

Facebook is defective by design. Al lot of programmers with bad intentions who make these facebook-applications try to trick you into sharing a lot of information with a third party server, when you only want to make use of a small function someone shared with you.

3. Practical reasons

The next problem occurs when one company owns a service which is closed down to a certain extent. This is what I call a centralized service. Centralized services only have one point on which the entire world connects.

Several ways to do social networking. Only one is correct...

The first problem that occurs here is uptime. To guarantee 99.99% uptime it takes giant effort from this company and they will have to keep a lot of computers running in big data-centers. This means a lot of unneeded power consumption and thus a higher risk for global warming. On the other hand is the risk for attacks too high. And that’s something twitter can confirm.

A second problem with centralization takes us back to 2. The fact only one firm can control your entire social data is quite alarming when they handle it without caution.

When firms like twitter and facebook finally notice this uptime-problem, it’s too late. They got a centralized system and the only thing they might do internally is to create a decentralized system. This system might help to decrease server downtime, yet it does not help any other objection I got against centralized systems.

The solution, you might have guessed, is to work decentralized. Decentralization gives each user the freedom to send his/her information to the services he wants through one client. The most decentralized you can get is when you use a peer to peer network. Peer to peer (p2p) has always reached the news in a very bad spotlight since only a few, but very big, companies dislike one particular use of it: illegal file sharing. Apart from that this p2p technology is very interesting and respects your privacy to the fullest. A second very interesting technology is torrenting, which was initially used to share heavy linux distributions among friends, has been put in a bad daylight as well. Whatever those people may say, copying does not equal stealing.

Before I drift too far from bashing facebook, there are social network sites that do want to protect your freedom and privacy in a way just like these p2p networks. I use only one µ-blogging service which is called identi.ca which does just that. This leads me to my next objection against facebook.

4. Free software matters

There’s a very long story I can tell you about free software, but I won’t. Too be very concise: free software (Dutch: vrije software) is software which respects your freedom* as a user. As a user myself I try to achieve to only use software that respects my freedom for reasons I won’t mention since it would turn out in one of Richard Stallman’s speeches (which are quite interesting in fact) and I would not be writing about facebook.

The neologism of 2009 must have been «cloud computing». Too bad for the word it does not really have a meaning but if you mention it to your future boss you will certainly get the job. Cloud computing is when your files, and your programs are all «in the cloud», which is a fancy word for «on a computer somewhere far away». For instance google docs: your text processor which runs inside your browser.

This entire revolution to running your applications somewhere far away raises new questions. How can a company assure me that all my files are stored properly, that I won’t going to loose them, that they will not be open for anyone if these files are confidential (if you got a STD, I don’t think you want the world to read your medical report), etc…

The answer I have found so far is again in free software. I think the source-code of every cloud-application should be available for you to read, so anyone can check for security leaks, or can enhance the code for the new feature you’d like to see, or … Of course I understand that as a non-technical person you cannot program, but there are enough people that do so and it’s important for a non-technical person to understand this and support those people by using the software.

On top of that I think you should have the freedom to take this code and put it on a server of your own if you are able to do that. Again, many people are and you should support those people by using their server. This leads to a distributed web, which solves my third objection, since everyone can set up their own instance of «the cloud», thus the uptime of all these connected system will be 100% guaranteed, and your privacy and freedom will be respected.

Sites that meet these requirements are for instance: wikipedia/wikimedia, a lot of bulletin board systems like SMF and phpBB, identi.ca which uses status.net, drupal sites, a lot of blogging sites like wordpress, etc.

I also want to have the idea the web is ‘open’ again. Tim Berners-Lee (his identi.ca), one of the www-inventors, meant it that way: in those days you could check every page’s source with the view source button. Nowadays there’s a lot of server-side scripting being done which needs opening as well.

Conclusion, yes I would like to be your web 2.0 friend, but I won’t be your facebook buddy. If you want to share thoughts in public with me you can do that in a free and distributed way using identi.ca. And what privacy concerns,  it is not about hiding everything, it’s about choosing the things you don’t like the entire world to know.

-Pieter – follow me on identi.ca

*There are 4 essential Freedoms as described by Richard Stallman
0. Freedom to run the software as you wish
1. Freedom to study and change the source code as you wish
2. Freedom to copy and distribute the software as you wish.
3. Freedom to create and distribute modified versions as you wish.
(If you think starting to count at 0 is cool, you might not be as non-geeky as you wished)

6 comments

  1. Pingback: tics nerviosos » Blog Archive » Querido Facebook
  2. Tzimisce

    QUOTE: You can’t step out whenever you’d like to. Your data is saved and any attempt to delete your data will be fought. (eg. Web 2.0 suicide machine got blocked)

    The main reason i don’t use and will never use facebook. but you are right on all the line, great post.

  3. dan

    Well put. As usual, your thoughtfulness and principles are clearly stated, and you may very well win the Nobel Peace Prize one day for something.

    I agree with most of your points! I signed up for facebook as an experiment, but have never given any information that I consider “confidential” or even “true”. 🙂

    Unfortunately the experiment failed, as I seem to revisit the site several times a week. Some people are so eager to share anything with the world that I end up with more information from the site than I could gain from actual conversations with these same people.

  4. Normand

    What’s up everybody, here every person is sharing these
    kinds of know-how, therefore it’s pleasant to read this weblog, and I used to go to see this website daily.

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