We’ve all heard about Facebook’s privacy issues and their attempts at fixing them. These security breaches have been receiving a lot of attention recently, but one of the most surprising statistics to hit the web is just how much Facebook’s privacy issues are really affecting their user’s willingness to stick around.
Sophos, a security firm, polled 1,588 Facebook users at random to get a clear opinion of what the population thinks about Facebook. The results were surprising to say the least; they showed that around 60% of the users are considering deleting their accounts, and 16% have already stopped using the social networking platform because of privacy concerns.
“This poll shows that the majority of users are fed up with the lack of control that Facebook gives users over their data,” said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. “Most still don’t know how to set their Facebook privacy options safely, finding the whole system confusing. What’s needed is a fundamental shift towards asking users to ‘opt-in’ to sharing information, rather than to ‘opt-out’.
As shocking as these numbers are, it is still unlikely that everyone will just up and leave Facebook without anything else to take its place.
“A mass exodus from Facebook seems unlikely, but users are clearly getting more interested in knowing precisely who can view their data. People use Facebook to share private information and are unlikely to want their holiday snaps or new mobile number accidentally popping up all over the Internet” said Graham Cluley in an article from Telegraph.co.uk.
Facebook is well aware of its user’s concerns and frustration over the privacy setting and other issues, and is getting back to work to try to make their users happy:
“Now we’ve heard from our users that we have gotten a little bit complex,” Tim Sparapani, Facebook’s head of public policy said in a radio interview. “I think we are going to work on that. We are going to be providing options for users who want simplistic bands of privacy that they can choose from and I think we will see that in the next couple of weeks.”
But is this too little too late?
Mass protests are already being organized against Facebook and how it has been treating its users. One example is the “Quite Facebook Day” campaign, which encourages users to quit using their accounts on May 31st.
“For a lot of people, quitting Facebook revolves around privacy. This is a legitimate concern, but we also think the privacy issue is just the symptom of a larger set of issues,” wrote technologist Joseph Dee and systems designer Matthew Milan, founders of the Quite Facebook Day website. “The cumulative effects of what Facebook does now will not play out well in the future, and we care deeply about the future of the web as an open, safe and human place. We just can’t see Facebook’s current direction being aligned with any positive future for the web, so we’re leaving.”
Another approach to showing Facebook that its users have had enough of how they are being treated is FacebookProtest.com. It doesn’t ask users to quite or erase their profiles, but does ask that they refrain from using their accounts on June 6th.
Either way, the facts are that Facebook is losing major points in the eyes of their users, and a new social networking platform might be taking over in the near future.
Users are looking a platform that lets them share their information as they please, yet give them all the privacy and ownership rights to that information. Facebook is good with the first part, but all the information that you post on Facebook’s server belongs to them, and they can choose to use it in whichever way they want.
This is where Diaspora.com comes in. Diaspora is still in the process of being created, but the idea behind it is that everything you post online and share with your friends will be yours. No one can choose for you how to share the information or exploit your personal information for profit. It will be the equivalent of Facebook, except everything will be under your control, and not some CEO that tries to profit from his the platform’s users.
Diaspora is still a long way from being complete, as it is the brain child of four talented young programmers from NYU’s Courant Institute who plan on working on it over the summer. The students asked for a $10,000 pledge from Internet users around the world to help them fund this project, but looking at the latest number of dollars pledged, they have much more support then they ever would have imagined getting.
As a user that is also getting a bit irritated with Facebook and its privacy issues, I can’t wait for Diaspora to launch and become the next big social networking platform.