Following Maria Aspan's excellent article in the New York Times, Facebook has apparently softened their Draconian stance on not letting users leave Facebook. They went from making it impossible to delete your account to making it only slightly less cumbersome.
This is, of course, not nearly enough.
Facebook management doesn't want you to close your account. No other social network I've ever used has made it so difficult to leave. Even Rupert Murdoch's MySpace lets you completely shut down your account with a few clicks. The fact that Facebook doesn't want to give users this control over how their data is shared begs the question: What are they really using our personal data for?
They've already lied to us about "not being technically able to delete an account", since they've quickly deleted accounts that have violated their Terms of Service (porn, abuse, etc). They've given us the runaround over and over again about asking us to delete our content piecemeal, making us jump through hoops to regain control of content and personal information which belonged to us to begin with. They make zero effort to hide their links with several intelligence agencies and libertarian think-thanks.
Yet, users continue to flock to Facebook, because it's where their friends are. And we all know that your worth is directly proportional to how many friends you have on Facebook, how many wall writings you have, and how many invasive applications you install. Applications which give personal information such as your full name, religion, political views and hometown to any random developer who helped code it... and their friends.
Make no mistake, though: this is not about Facebook.
It's about setting a dangerous precedent on the internet about how easily we let corporations data-mine our private lives. By voluntarily giving up our personal information to Facebook and their cronies in such a structured manner, we're in essence building an "internet within the internet", controlled and monitored by Facebook.
So, I ask Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg and co.: Why don't you let users leave Facebook when they want to? Why are you so much more adamant about holding on to our data than any other social network? What, exactly, are you trying to hide?
Once you finally give users a way to close their accounts on their own - using a "delete my account" button, like every other social networking website in existence - we'll start feeling slightly less suspicious about you. Until then, expect to keep hearing from privacy advocates and disgruntled users. Expect to keep seeing well-written articles about your unfair business practices in the media. And expect complaints to keep rolling in.
Like all social networks that came before it, Facebook will come and go. It is at its peak right now, and will follow the paths of all the social networks that came before it: growth, rise, decline, acquisition by Google, Yahoo, or rich person, and finally, fading into irrelevance. After all the Facebooks have crumbled into dust, the open internet will still be around.
Finally, here's a cute logo that my friend Mir made for me. I especially like the angry dog.