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I Confess...I Dislike Facebook

Submitted by Michelle Boule on March 16, 2011 - 8:27am

I have a confession. I realize what I am about to admit will make me a curmudgeon to some, but so be it.

I dislike Facebook.

Hate is too strong a word because Facebook is good for finding people I have lost track of, but that is about the only thing for which I'm willing to give it credit. I would rather everything else that Facebook does elsewhere. My reasons for this dislike boil down to a mix of a dislike of user agreements as well as the lack of intellectual property rights, lack of privacy, and my general annoyance that very few people know or care about these issues with Facebook.

I have been thinking about this for quite awhile but this post by Alycia at BrokenJaws moved me to my keyboard to put my thoughts into writing. Alycia’s post included a request to ALA President Roberta Stevens to keep our professional conversations out of “walled gardens” like Facebook. To me, this is a reasonable request on many levels and one that I applaud.

Before I go into more detail about the why I feel this way, I'll acknowledge that there is a compelling reason to use Facebook for discussions of any kind. People are there. A lot of people are there and many of those people adore Facebook. Unfortunately, for dislikers like me, Facebook is still the best way to spread the news to some and get in touch with others. In fact, the presence of all of those people is really the only reason I have a Facebook account.

The issue of intellectual property is at the core of my disliking Facebook...namely the fact that on Facebook, there is none. When it comes to intellectual property, Facebook owns it all and everything is free to whomever you have given access to to use your words, creations, and pictures for whatever they would like.

Here is the relevant section of the user agreement (original link here):

“You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through yourprivacy and application settings. In addition:

  1. For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos ("IP content"), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook ("IP License"). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.
  2. When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).
  3. When you use an application, your content and information is shared with the application.  We require applications to respect your privacy, and your agreement with that application will control how the application can use, store, and transfer that content and information.  (To learn more about Platform, read our Privacy Policy and Platform Page.)
  4. When you publish content or information using the "everyone" setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information, and to associate it with you (i.e., your name and profile picture).
  5. We always appreciate your feedback or other suggestions about Facebook, but you understand that we may use them without any obligation to compensate you for them (just as you have no obligation to offer them).”

Although Facebook says that you “own” your content, they go on to say that anyone you allow to see your stuff, including them, has access to your stuff. Access, in Facebook, means that your stuff can be downloaded, remixed, reused, or copied without attribution for any purpose. In my mind, that is not “ownership;” that is plain old sharing without limits. If there was a way to apply a Creative Commons license to content in Facebook, this would be a moot point, but even if you wanted to try to apply a CC license to stuff on Facebook, I think the user rights you agree to would supercede that, since you basically give permission away by agreeing to them.

I noticed an example of this playing out recently on a local news channel here in Houston. When Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot it was big news everywhere, but since her husband is Astronaut Mark Kelly it very close to home for Houstonians. When one of the local news stations ran the story in the next few days, the photo they showed of Congresswoman Giffords and Astronaut Kelly was not from the campaign trail or official photos from their jobs, (and given that they are an astronaut and congresswoman, you'd think there would be plenty), but rather the picture the local news kept showing was a wedding photo of the couple attributed to “Facebook.”

I am not saying there is anything terribly wrong with this example. Given the public nature of their jobs, it is likely that the privacy settings on Giffords’ and Kelly’s accounts were set very open and allowed for the viewing of all their content. Still, when a tv station is able to post someone's wedding picture without having to seek any permission whatsoever, it's a great example of how anyone with access to your content can do whatever they wish with it. This is why I post very few photos on Facebook and use flickr for the bulk of my online display and storage of photos.

Most of the librarians I know are aware if this issue with Facebook, but most of the general public I talk to is not and, frankly, a lot of them do not care. To me, that's alarming, and an education issue that might be good topic for another post.

Privacy issues with facebook have been well documented as has Facebook's penchant for changing those policies often, without notice. I will not rehash this argument, but I will say though that I disagree with founder Mark Zuckerbuerg's assertion that people want less privacy. I think that Facebook forces people into less privacy and in order to stay connected, we feel forced to comply with his vision.

The original question posed by Alycia was: Should we have professional discussions in walled gardens especially when the conversation, once there, no longer belongs to us but to Facebook?

Probably not.

I think those discussions will continue to happen there, for better or worse, because, as I stated at the beginning, people are on Facebook and that is where they are living their online lives. Regardless of the issues with Facebook, personal and processional conversations of great and little import will continue to happen in the walled garden of Facebook.

As librarians, finders of information and educators of the masses, we have to consider that our professional conversations should not only happen in Facebook. They should happen in many different places at once. The problem then becomes duplication and distribution. When starting conversations, we would do well to start them in multiple places, across multiple platforms, to be as inclusive as possible.

As for me personally, I will continue to be on Facebook, but only marginally.


Comments (9)

Thank you! It is refreshing

Thank you! It is refreshing to to connect with someone in the field who hasn't embraced the FB bandwagon. I am as informed as I need to be through regular participation on blogs, Twitter, nings , etc... and I am too busy to water a virtual garden on FB! Seriously, I thought your reasons for avoiding FB were well stated and may give pause to some FB users who are now freely sharing their private lives with the world through FB.

Michelle B:If posting kids

Michelle B:If posting kids pics on Facebook is not something you worry about, then why do you go on to say that you only post them on Flickr and not Facebook? Unfortunately I agree w/ you that MOST of the kids who were taught it was OK to post those pics will do so as they grow up too. However, what about the ones that don't feel OK with it as they grow up? I guess I think if someone wants to post of pic of themselves on FB, it's fine, but I don't like it when people post pics of me, and I don't think anyone should post pics of anyone else, esp. children. That's just my opinion and something for us all to think about. Thanks.

Sally Sue, Yes. If someone

Sally Sue,
Yes. If someone you allowed access to your photos, downloaded a photo, they are then within their rights to do whatever they want with it, including sell it, because there is no copyright clause attached to that photo.

Anonymous,
Really the pictures of kids issue is not something I worry about. I do have a Flickr account on which I post many, many pictures of my child and family. However, on flickr, I have a legal say in what people can do with those pictures. On facebook, I do not have that ability. Also, keep in mind that those kids whose parents are currently posting their pictures online, will probably be posting pictures of themselves by the time they are 5 (or less). If current trends continue, those children will live even more of their lives online than we do.

Ok I have a question in

Ok I have a question in regards to "Although Facebook says that you “own” your content, they go on to say that anyone you allow to see your stuff, including them, has access to your stuff. Access, in Facebook, means that your stuff can be downloaded, remixed, reused, or copied without attribution for any purpose."

So, if I have a photo album that is only shared with certain friends, can one of those friends that has access to it, share one of the photos with, say, a newspaper, who can then publish it without permission?

Ok I have a question in

Ok I have a question in regards to "Although Facebook says that you “own” your content, they go on to say that anyone you allow to see your stuff, including them, has access to your stuff. Access, in Facebook, means that your stuff can be downloaded, remixed, reused, or copied without attribution for any purpose."

So, if I have a photo album that is only shared with certain friends, can one of those friends that has access to it, share one of the photos with, say, a newspaper, who can then publish it without permission?

Ok I have a question in

Ok I have a question in regards to "Although Facebook says that you “own” your content, they go on to say that anyone you allow to see your stuff, including them, has access to your stuff. Access, in Facebook, means that your stuff can be downloaded, remixed, reused, or copied without attribution for any purpose."

So, if I have a photo album that is only shared with certain friends, can one of those friends that has access to it, share one of the photos with, say, a newspaper, who can then publish it without permission?

I agree completely with your

I agree completely with your argument. My solution has been to have two accounts: one under my Nickname Former-Lastname, which has all of my personal friends on it, and to which I post very little content, and have no profile picture. My second account has my legal Firstname Married-Lastname, and I use that for professional purposes. People at my job don't tend to know my nickname, and many of my friends don't know my legal first-name.

So far, aside from denying personal friend requests on the professional account, it's worked out pretty well. My sister can tag me (on my personal account) on the article she wrote for the Boston Phoenix on rape culture & Penny Arcade, and I can still leave comments on my employer's Facebook page without repercussions.

And yes, given the information I've left here, someone COULD find my personal Facebook page - but probably not my professional one.

I also realise this only works if you have multiple useful names at your disposal, and a long standing practice of keeping your personal and professional lives separate.

I agree completely with your

I agree completely with your argument. My solution has been to have two accounts: one under my Nickname Former-Lastname, which has all of my personal friends on it, and to which I post very little content, and have no profile picture. My second account has my legal Firstname Married-Lastname, and I use that for professional purposes. People at my job don't tend to know my nickname, and many of my friends don't know my legal first-name.

So far, aside from denying personal friend requests on the professional account, it's worked out pretty well. My sister can tag me (on my personal account) on the article she wrote for the Boston Phoenix on rape culture & Penny Arcade, and I can still leave comments on my employer's Facebook page without repercussions.

And yes, given the information I've left here, someone COULD find my personal Facebook page - but probably not my professional one.

I also realise this only works if you have multiple useful names at your disposal, and a long standing practice of keeping your personal and professional lives separate.

Thanks for this article. I

Thanks for this article. I also do not like Facebook, and even though many people I know use it and like it, most of them are there "because of everyone else is there," and they do not like it either. I refuse to join it simply because it seems like everyone else is! I'm amazed at how many people don't realize that Facebook is actually just a huge money maker for Mark Z and his co. and how naive people are to post the things they post there! I'm especially disturbed by people who post pics of their children!! How will these children feel about that when they grow up? I urge people to THINK seriously about Facebook. Why would someone ever want their pics and conversations read by other people?? I don't get it! But marketers sure are having a great time targeting Facebook users! What a great tool for the marketer.