Everyone and their cross-eyed cousin already knows that I don't use Facebook. But it's not not untrue that I don't use any social networking services while I am bodysurfing on the Internets. I happen to visit a quite a few on a day-to-day basis - but unlike most of the folk on Facebook and the like, little things like “privacy” and “usefulness” come into play when I'm making a decision about whether or not I should cuddle up to the newest, trendiest Totally Interesting Thought-provoking Social Network (hereafter referred to as “TITSnet”). Not all social networks are created equal, and I don't treat them all the same either. There are networks where I'll use my full name as my username, and there are a couple very good reason for this - pseudonyms are for cowards, serial killers and fairies, and I want an easy way to keep track of all the stupid shit I say on the Internet. Fact: Over 100% of the corwardly / racist / ignorant comments that people see fit to post for the world to see are done behind the relative safety of anonymity. I think anonymity is a precious commodity not to be wasted on triflin' things like racism and such, so I save my pseudonyms for more important things like international espionage and / or dating websites. Sometimes I'll kill two birds with one stone and show off my multiple passports to my blind date and then we'll eat the birds. I get asked - yes, like, everyday - about which social networks I recommend / use. The short answer is none / lots. The long answer is "I'm about to tell you, so pipe down!". So, in the interest of pouring some much-needed chlorine into the e.coli infested swimming waters of the Internet, please enjoy this small collection of my S.N.O.T.S (Social Networks Of The Season):
So, some anonymous dude (who is actually not quite as anonymous as he'd like to believe) left some comments on my nearly 2-year-old post about closing my Facebook account, then decided to try and prove a point about his views on privacy by cleverly looking up my cell number (which is public) and doing a Google search to find a photo of me (which is also public).
The point he ended up proving, of course, is that he's a slightly creepy person who calls up random people about an old blog post they wrote when he disagrees with them. Also, he knows how to perform the shit out of a Google search.
I was driving Mir - much more stalker-worthy material than I, if you ask me - to pick up some food for her dog, when my cell rings:
- Is this Steven Mansour, from stevenmansour.com, about the facebook post?
- Yup, who's this?
- Just wanted to tell you that nothing is private, case in point I found your phone number, I'm not trying to stalk you or anything but you know how easy it is to find information about people on the internet.
Followed by Mir and I looking at each other with a quizzical "WTF?".
So yes - it's true! You can find lots of information about people on the Internet, off and on Facebook. Especially if that information is, you know, supposed to be public in the first place. I don't hide my contact information from the world, and even if I did, a simple whois lookup on anyone (including Mr. "Anonymous") would be more than enough to get any more information about anyone else. That's why closed networks like Facebook are so insidious - people put more information on there than they would on an obviously public page such as this one, with the misconception that only their friends and family can access it. They - especially young people - are duped into jumping into bed with Facebook with the idea that they can retain control over who gets to access what.
So what can we keep private? Lots. I'm pretty open - I make a point to use my real, full name in online games or on the handful social networks left that are genuinely useful to me; it makes it easier for me to keep track of and aggregate everything I'm doing. On others - ones where I prefer remaining private - I always use a pseudonym, encryption and TOR. There is data (music, videos, games) on my home PC that you'd probably be able to access without much difficulty if you really wanted to get at my
Lionel Ritchie Paris Hilton Audioslave high-fidelity OGG files. Then there is other data and information that anyone would have a bitch of a time trying to find, decipher, crack and decrypt.
So, what's the point? Well, that problems with privacy control and things like identity theft have been around long before the Internet ever came to be, and will stick around long after the Internet has withered to
dust copper flakes. That it's about corporate responsibility, education, and governance - not paranoia. That anyone with a phone book and fingers can find whoever they're looking for. And finally, whether you live down the street or in Florida, that you shouldn't look up my number and call me unless you've got something to say.
Or unless you're a blond-haired blue-eyed college cheerleader from the south. Then, you can just ask.
Sigh. I suppose it's normal that my first post in a few weeks here would be about Facebook.
So, some dude set up a mischievous fake Facebook profile for some other dude in London, and ended up having to pay £22,000 in damages for libel and breach of privacy.
A businessman whose personal details were "laid bare" in fake entries on the Facebook social networking website has won a libel case at the High Court.
Mathew Firsht was awarded £22,000 in damages against an old school friend, Grant Raphael, who created the profile.
I'm not exactly sure how much £22,000 equals in real money, but I think the conversion process in my head puts it hovering somewhere near a gazillion dollars.
Why is this
semi somewhat passingly important?
Dear Steven Mansour,
Thank you for submitting your privacy complaint through the TRUSTe Watchdog Dispute Resolution program. The TRUSTe Compliance Team has reviewed the details of your complaint and we have determined that it is a valid privacy complaint. We have contacted www.facebook.com on your behalf and have outlined the steps necessary for proper resolution.
Because you gave permission for the site to contact you directly, please be advised that you may receive emails directly from the site regarding resolution of your Watchdog complaint. [...]
That's great news for all of us who've been concerned about Facebook's stubborn - and Orwellian - refusal to voluntarily close user accounts when specifically asked to. Let's see how Facebook responds.
While I'm still getting comments on my post about How to Leave Facebook, around the web many more instances of discontent with Facebook's policies are rearing their heads.
First, it was comforting to know that I was not alone in the not-so-pleasurable experience of manually deleting all my Facebook content piecemeal. Kate Raynes-Goldie writes:
It took me just under four hours, sitting there clicking delete delete delete. It also didn't help that their software seems to get a bit screwy when you delete a lot of stuff fast. At one point I had left a bunch of groups, but it still had me listed as a member, but wouldn't let me leave again because I wasn't a member. Once you've had your hours of fun, you have to email Facebook again and ask them nicely to delete your account. I thought all of this was an insane requirement, so I emailed our friend Facebook Peter. The reply:
(edit: Thanks Julien, for introducing me to the awesome destructive power of Digg.) ;)
Yes, it's true! I finally managed to close my Facebook account. It was a long, arduous road - the hardest part was slaying the Gorgon on level 16 - and I'm glad it's finally over.
If you, cherished reader, are wondering why I would do such a thing, then wipe those potato skins off the top of your Bananarama tour t-shirt and keep reading: