About ten years ago, my friends and family were abandoning their Myspace accounts and heading to Facebook. I fought it for a while but eventually assimilated and ended up with over 650 Facebook “friends” at last count. Even my mother embraced the platform, very happy that she could see frequently updated photos of her many grandchildren and great-grandchildren instead of relying on printed photos passed around after family dinners. She abandoned telephone calls to spread news in favour of sharing it in a private group.
Despite the popularity of Facebook, security minded people have been wary about much of the fun found there. For example, it’s not safe to provide your Facebook user name and password to get the results of “Which Star Trek Captain are You?” or to find out “How You Would Look as the Opposite Gender.” Even text-based quizzes are suspect as they ask questions that are often required on banking or credit card sites. And those requests from friends to copy and paste a status if you really hate cancer may be just more annoying than anything else.
Even if you avoid most of the traps, the ever-changing security features are difficult to manage. It seems like there is a new recommendation to keep your data “private” every few months. The apps connected to Facebook multiply like viruses, and maybe some of them are.
Recently, we have learned that our Facebook data has been mishandled. It’s not a typical breach. The data was collected using legitimate means, but then not deleted as promised and eventually used for nefarious purposes. Since the news broke, I’ve seen several of my techie friends say that they will abandon their Facebook accounts. My friend count hasn’t noticeably diminished, so only few of them have followed through, and it’s probably too late to prevent the damage anyway.
Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO and founder of Facebook, has promised to make changes to the platform to keep something like this from happening again. For the tens of millions of people whose information has been collected and abused, it’s too little, too late. It’s impossible to undo what has been done.
In this time of almost daily data breaches, the only way to guarantee safety is to stay offline and keep your computer turned off. For most of us, that’s not possible. Over the past 25 years, we have become more and more dependent on online resources for our work, education, shopping, news, and entertainment. The lure of social media keeps people using it, even though we are not the customers – we are the product.
What do you plan to do? Will you continue to use the platform after making some settings changes or will you stay away from Facebook from now on? Tell us in the comments.