Contemplating FaceBook Hara-Kiri

Contemplating FaceBook Hara-Kiri

Summary: With FaceBook ever encroaching on my privacy, the value proposition of maintaining a profile on the popular social network approaches considerably diminishing marginal utility.


With FaceBook ever encroaching on my privacy, the value proposition of maintaining a  profile on the popular social network approaches considerably diminishing marginal utility.

For the first year of the one and a half years I interacted with the service, I generally enjoyed using FaceBook. It was a great mechanism for hooking up with old friends, for after-hours chit chat with colleagues and followers of my blogs, and a nice tool for keeping up with the goings on of my friends and family.

I began to rely on FaceBook heavily as a personal information management tool and for contact aggregation. When it was simple, and it did what I needed it to do, it was a good thing.

But there was no "Missing Manual" for using FaceBook or any sort of social network. Nobody told me it was a bad idea to accept every single friend invitation. Nobody told me I wasn't supposed to engage in every single invite to participate in stupid movie quizzes and so forth. Nobody told me that having 50 apps connected to your profile was a bad idea.

In the first six months of using FaceBook I made all the stupid mistakes that FaceBook noobs do, which is that they go overboard. So once I realized all the stupid things I was doing, I began the process of locking things down and minimizing my exposure.

Operation: FaceBook Lockdown

I pulled all the FaceBook apps other than the ones I needed for external API connectivity to Twitter and my blog updates. I told people I would not engage in any more games/quizzes and ignored all group and cause invites. I continued to accept all friend requests, because I thought this was relatively harmless and there was no reason why I couldn't be accessible to all of my readers and fans on FaceBook. So I thought I had things under control.
Well, I was wrong.

About six months ago FaceBook became much more aggressive with their default privacy settings and sharing too much personal information. So now everyone had to get a friggin' security consultant to figure out how to lock down their profiles at an acceptable level of granularity that didn't make them a target for identity theft or God-Knows-What.

Back in November of 2009, our own Zack Whittaker put together a great tutorial for doing this. Unfortunately, Zack's tutorial is now outdated, so I had to write a new one myself. FaceBook has been introducing so many changes on what seems like a monthly or weekly basis that it's nearly impossible to keep track of what is being exposed and what is not.

Also Read: Lockdown or Death for your FaceBook Proflile

Last month was a particularly crappy one for me in terms of time sink and negative effects versus FaceBook value add. As I discussed in a previous post, my FaceBook account was compromised via either direct attack on FaceBook's systems, or via malware that somehow made its way onto one of my own machines or other system that I had used.

Regardless of how the exploit itself came to be, I became the unwilling vector of a huge spam attack on hundreds of my friends. I can't help but think how this effect was or could have been magnified by the level of exposure I have as a writer for both a well-known technology news blog and a high-profile food blog, and the amount of personal information that was able to be purloined by the APIs that FaceBook exposes as a result of my social networking activities.

To say that I am watching all of my credit card balances and bank activity like a hawk after this last breach is a serious understatement.

The Art of Getting Continuously Zuckerpunched

In the last week, FaceBook has made additional changes which further expose even more information and create more "connections" within the site.

The first of which is the "Instant Personalization Pilot" which has gotten everyone so incensed, it actually hit the floor of Senate with enraged politicians on both ends of the political spectrum within days of its activation, not to mention activist groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation that want it shut down.

The second thing that FaceBook did within the last few days was to ask every single user to opt-in on connections to various keywords for "Likes and Interests" for Activities, Interests, Music, Books, Movies and TV as well as for employer/work and educational information that was under their "Info" tab.

In my case, it asked me to link to 67 separate keywords/groups and by default, opted me into each and every one of these, and I had to opt out of all of them manually.

This is totally separate from the traditional FaceBook "Like" where you joined a Page or a Group.  If I want to pull myself out of those, since I am more and more concerned about how this information is going to be shared in the future, I will have to remove myself from what amounts to over 40 separate groups.

What's worse is I cannot do this in bulk, I have to click into every separate one of these pages and "Unlike" manually. Thanks Zuckerberg. Thanks a lot.

More and more, FaceBook is becoming the ultimate "Evil Interface" and the disadvantages, security concerns and time sink for managing these FaceBook profiles are starting to outweigh the actual benefits of using the service in the first place.

This is Adam Smith's Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility applied to Social Networking. More and more and more sharing and personal data exposure from FaceBook is equates to way, way, way less comfort, security, and utility with the service.

Suicide is Painless and Becoming the Social Networking Undead

FaceBook's actions have gotten so many people upset and frustrated that they've actually gone ahead and committed FaceBook "suicide" by completely deleting their on-line profiles. Sites like Seppukoo and the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine have stepped forward to assist them with their electronic euthanasia needs, like the Cloud versions of Doctor Kevorkian.

I have several friends, many who work in the technology industry and that are extremely tech-savvy folks that have recently gone and destroyed their FaceBook accounts the same way, retreating to much more manageable services such as and Twitter and LinkedIn in order to share contact and status information.

As like the ancient Greeks, these tortured souls met Charon at the River Styx, paid their silver coin and ferried on to the Underworld, never to be seen on FaceBook ever again.

<cue the "Let's Go Crazy" Prince monologue> Dearly Beloved, not all of us can completely cut the cord and move on to the afterlife.

Some of us, who have larger levels of exposure and have built an on-line following must build temples to our lifeless forms. We must emulate the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt, where a shell of our former presence must remain as monuments to our living greatness.

Like the Pharaohs, who were regarded as Living Gods, we must also have these temples so that our "worshipers" can continue to receive our blessings and we, as their adoring Gods, can receive their offerings -- i.e., their Wall posts and messages. For what is a God without worshippers?

And there are tools for us to do that, fortunately.

What I am now seriously considering doing is turning my regular FaceBook profile into a completely minimalistic stub, de-activating all Wall capabilities and removing all personal information beyond very basic data. My on-line sarcophagus, where only the "inner priesthood" can examine my mummified form.

I will continue to pare down my friends to a manageable number, probably less than a hundred people. As of this writing, I'm hovering around 570, which is still too large for me to feel comfortable. If I still decide to maintain a Wall on my profile, then only a very small number of people will have access to it: Real life friends, family, and close personal contacts.

This culling and on-line presence segregation not only reduces my level of exposure in terms of "Connections" but also allows me to spend quality time on the Walls of people I care about, which has become increasingly difficult to do with the huge feed of people I'm dealing with now, even post-Grouping and committing mass "friendicide" of about 700 people.

I'll continue to maintain a group that I use for dinner invites and such for my food blog, and for status updates from Twitter and my blogs, I'll maintain a new Jason Perlow fan page.

If someone attempts to friend me, I'll simply point them to subscribe to the Fan Page, where I can still interact with them using a public Wall, and they'll see updates from me on their FaceBook news feeds, but I don't have to go through a whole friending process and share all sorts of personal data with them. If someone is really important enough to merit a business contact, they can hook up with me at LinkedIn.

There are of course a number of disadvantages to this. For starters, everything on a Fan Page is public. But I'm already sending status updates via Twitter and having conversation threads there, so it really won't make much difference, because I won't be posting anything publicly that I won't want anyone else to see. And there's always the chance somebody could post something really obnoxious or vile there, so I'll have to watch it and delete things accordingly.

Unless FaceBook really starts to address my concerns -- I'll be following the traditions of the Japanese Samurai and performing the electronic version of Hara-Kiri, and having myself embalmed and entombed like Ramesses II in the Valley of the FaceBook Kings: my fan page.

Have you committed or are considering FaceBook Hara-Kiri? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

[poll id="22"]

Topic: Social Enterprise


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • Facebook and me

    I do not access Facebook more than once or twice per month. No more than 5 minutes each time.

    My privacy settings are set to almost the highest and most extreme level possible.

    I also disabled my profile some time ago, but for whatever reason I re-enabled it. Don't ask me why...

    Also I do not, and will never, seriously use Twitter (3 tweets in 18 months, so far).

    I fully agree that LinkedIn is preferable for business contacts; Twitter, however, is as bad (or worse) than Facebook. I have been 'added' on the lists of tens of weird-sounding users' names who are following me (bots? spammers? don't ask me). I really couldn't care less about these weird applications.
    Daniel Breslauer
    • ....

      [i]I also disabled my profile some time ago, but for whatever reason I re-enabled it. Don't ask me why...[/i]


      Sorry, I just had to.
  • I an considering it ...

    ... in large part, Jason, because of your negative experiences.
    M Wagner
    • Jason's Not the Only One! :O But..,YOU CAN NEVER LEAVE FB!

      Months ago I resented the fact that my security
      settings wouldn't stay consistent. I could go in
      after making sure everything was set weeks before,
      only to find they had been opened back up!

      So I play their game and put very little truth and use
      misleading details along with a separate email address
      from my personal email address. My last name used is
      fake, with only the initial of my real last name as my
      middle initial.

      What people don't realize, is nothing is ever deleted.
      Even if you delete your account it's never gone. Even
      if you delete an application or game (like Mobsters),
      your profile and picture remain in the game. You only
      need to add the game again to be right where you
      started. But even if you don't, your friends and
      relatives never see you as gone. It's as if you are
      still playing, or using the application, even though
      you think you deleted it.

      So Jason and others! :O can THINK you have
      killed your FB account, but it will always be there
      for reactivation and as such, you can NEVER TRULY
      LEAVE FACEBOOK! Sorry!
      • Actually, one can for the most part do so

        Facebook has two options: the by far easier account diactivation, or the more difficult account deletion.

        Now, I don't believe that there have been tests on whether or not a deletion of an accout will remove pictures and video items from FB, but it has already proven to have deletion of only the item to be ineffective.
  • RE: Contemplating FaceBook Hara-Kiri

    I also was click-jacked and had my account turned into a spam-spewing machine and had had it with trying to deal with the security changes. So some time ago I did as you say, made my profile a minimalist stub and deactivated my wall to all but a very small set of friends. This has made the experience much more enjoyable (like it was at the beginning) and not such a nightmare to police from a security perspective. I still may take the Hara-Kiri option, but this one-step-short approach is a useful alternative you should consider.
  • Even before the recent changes...

    Facebook was too much of a privacy and security risk for
    me. I never signed up. However I still fell victim to
    facebook: A friend, trying to get me to sign up, created
    a "convince (my name here) to sign up for facebook!"
    group, and posted my email address on the main page. He
    didn't realize this was publicly available. My spam
    volume shot up. It was months before I figured out why.
    sigh. At least he illustrated a part of why I won't join,
    I guess.
    • ... blink, blink, blink ...

      THEY DID WHAT! Oh, that would soooooo be the end of that friendship. A good friend would never share such information. A bad friend is worse than no friend at all.
      Mark Bryant
      • he's a good guy...

        ...but totally ignorant of this kind of stuff. I
        was mad, but I forgive him. It was just a dumb
      • RE: A bad friend is worse than no friend at all?

        <br>I disagree. I had a few bad friends. They came pretty close to killing me with their doctrines of faith. No exaggeration.<br><br>So I figure it's best to have no friends than bad friends that are no better than enemies.
  • Still dying to know

    Did you ever find this malware that made you swear off Windows? Now you're talking about leaving Facebook, but is that because of the magical, undetectable malware or because of the privacy concerns? Leaving because of the breach in your account seems more reasonable than leaving behind Windows and likely should have been the initial post.

    But that's okay, post what you want slamming Windows/Microsoft, follow it up with no proof and a week later write an article and just gloss over it as an irrelevant detail.
    • Knucklehead

      I never swore off Windows. I virtualized it.

      I said in the article you are referring to that we could not isolate the source of
      the breach. This article is primarily concerned with information management
      and privacy. It has NOTHING to to with the other piece.
      • Windows Malware: The final straw that broke the penguin?s back

        Oh, I see... So when it fits your purpose you will slam Windows for no reason other than, at worst, your own carelessness. And when called on the matter you call your reader a knucklehead? Okay.

        Have fun with that. I'm not the "tech blogger" that thinks they got hit with magical malware that nothing you've run can detect. But hey, to each their own. Funny how that malware only took your facebook account and absolutely none of your other sites were compromised. Seems banking would be higher priority than random spam from facebook.

        And by the way, in this very article you reference the "pain" you dealt with last week over the breach of your account as another reason why you're leaving facebook. If you're going to selectively argue your point, be a bit more selective in what you write.
        • Unfriended

          What I'd like to know is if any of Jason's friends unfriended him after his system 'accidently' sent that malware to his buddies. Is that perhaps more reason to decapitate facebook from your life ?
        • I don't see a windows slam

          or is liquid doing one backhandedly?
          • I fear Jason is becoming increasingly disingenuous

            [i]"my FaceBook account was compromised via either direct attack on FaceBook?s systems, or [b]via malware that somehow made its way onto one of my own machines or other system that I had used[/b]."[/i]

            Again, perpetuating the myth that some undetectable Windows malware somehow compromized his Facebook identity really doesn't smack of click-porn much, does it now?

            Frankly, as an IBM Enterprise Architect if Jason can't work out that "having 50 apps is bad", then I am starting to seriously question not only Jason's sanity, but his technical credentials.

            I am also starting to smell a rat here: Why would a former senior technology editor at Linux Magazine primarily use Windows on his PC's? Is it because he doesn't believe that Linux is all it claims to be? Is it that he finds Linux unfriendly and difficult to use?

            AND ... what does Jason think that virtualizing his Windows instances will do to protect his online identities? This I've got to hear.

            If I assume Jason has at least one Linux machine (probably more), why did he not point the finger at some undetectable malware running on his Linus machine(s) that compromized his Facebook identity.

            As I said regarding his prior article on this matter, I fear that Jason is just stirring the pot to get more hits rather than penning any credible article.

            This is a shame as I've genuinely enjoyed many of Jason's prior articles - even those I didn't agree with.
        • lol.. Can't Believe Any of You Think You Can Leave Facebook! ;)

          I have several accounts and they are all fake, because
          I never trusted them from the start. People started an
          Exodus from MySpace because of Security, but at least
          if you delete your account, it's gone. On
          Facebook,.... in plain English, "YOU CAN NEVER LEAVE

          ...AND that whether you're using Windows, Linux, OS-X,
          BeOS, Unix, OpenBSD, JavaOS, a library computer, your
          mobile phone, etc et al!

          YOU ARE ON FACEBOOK (like it or not) FOR *L*I*F*E*!
          ....and BEYOND YOUR DEATH!

          (make a seperate fake email account up for each one
          and never use your personal email account)

          This is why you should never ever ever use your real
          information for any web mail, social network or any
          other Internet based SERVICE!

          Only the facts can hurt you. Who cares if you give a
          spoof site (or actually any site) your name as Mickey
          Mouse, your age as 101 and your social security or
          bank account as 123456789.... or whatever? Naturally
          you make them reasonable, but NEVER use your real info
          EVER on the Internet!!! ...with the exception of
          personal physical BANK accounts with online access!

          Even there, people need to learn the basics of using
          SECURE PASSWORDS (with at least 10 characters,
          preferably 20 or more). With as many characters and
          types as possible. Hopefully including lower case
          and upper case letters, numbers, special characters
          and SPACES.

          Most Brute Force Tools and Cracking Software do not
          know how to deal with SPACES. If your bank, web mail
          site or social network doesn't allow all of these,
          then your Account will end up most likely going on the
          Black Market Auction Block. Request that your site
          make it possible to use all of them or n.e.v.e.r. use
          any REAL information about you on that site! ....even
          here at ZDNet! (sorry guys, I only look like i2fun ;)

          If you do, you are simply asking for trouble. In
          fact....., if you keep any real information on your
          computer (hopefully you don't name your computer or
          user name even with any real info. It's just plain
          stupid to think that you should expose the real you
          anywhere on a digital medium. Unless it's required,
          encrypted or stored in an encrypted file or used in
          other encrypted or secure ways.

          How do I remember SECURE PASSWORDS? I don't!
          ...because you can't remember a Truly SECURE PASSWORD
          unless you you have a photographic memory.

          I keep them all in double encrypted files (on
          various devices and places for back up) in a spoof
          or fake application. There are many. Some are
          Calculators that operate like a calculator. lol But
          have the added benefit of having secure password and
          info storage. PRETTY TRICKY.... yes, but worth the
          trouble and they are a portable means of access to
          your secure information. In order to be able to
          copy/paste your password and user name when you
          need it. Much better than using your cat or
          mother's maiden name and date of birth or sport
          riddle for one! ;)
      • You are contradicting yourself

        If you are talking about Facebook privacy
        policies, then why talk about data breaches and
        mention you are watching your bank accounts?
        Surely you did not post your credit card and bank
        account numbers in your FB profile. You, whether
        intentionally or not, have linked your data breach
        with FB's privacy policies together in this
        article and have no right to personally insult
        people who call you out on it.
        • He didn't post his credit card details ... he's trying to stir the pot

          It's called click-porn - writing something in a sufficiently inflammatory manner as to encourage a great deal of commentary and thus uncrease ad sales.

          It's how he earns his cash.

          This is a shame, however, because Jason was one of the more credible bloggers who I held in high regard even though I didn't always agree with his position.

          Alas, he appears to be falling into the trap that others have in penning unnecessarily inflammatory articles that have little basis in fact. A shame.
  • Wait, last week it was because of "Windows"

    Supposedly it was a Windows problem, and changing to Linux would solve this... (not that Facebook is doing things right). This opt-out game that Google (and now Facebook, it seems) are playing is no fun.
    Roque Mocan