Facebook users have some common complaints, and they’re increasingly voicing them.
Industry magazine PC World wrote about “Quit Facebook Day” in June; more than 26,000 people had committed to delete their accounts, according to the magazine.
Tops among the complaints are an unease with the way the site treats user data, and a desire for a portable social networkthat’s not dependant on a particular Web site, but is more like an e-mail address book.
Switching e-mail services doesn’t mean losing your address book, said Michael Caulfield, instructional designer for the Center for Engagement Learning and Teaching at Keene State College and the author of numerous Granite State blogs. Most services let you transfer it easily.
“That’s not the case with Facebook. I have 236 ‘friends,’ and probably 136 of them, I would never see again if I left Facebook.”
The security issues people have with Facebook are a little more complicated, and tend to break into two categories: understanding what the user is sharing, and with whom Facebook the company is sharing it.
Facebook recently launched new features that allow users to stay signed in even if they navigate off the site, and record actions they do on other sites to their profile.
Users complained after they were automatically enrolled in the service, and often didn’t know the extent of what they’d be sharing. It can be as mundane as “liking” an article on a news site, or as intimate as an online underwear purchase.
“Most people want to share some things they do and keep some things private. They just want to understand when they are doing which,” Caulfield said.
The second issue is about where personal information is being sent and how is it being used by the company.
Facebook has been notoriously tight-lipped about how it shares users’ information with potential advertisers, who want to target people.
“One’s an issue of openness and the other is more of a standard privacy issue: to what extent do you control the rights of the information you produce,” Caulfield said.
He’s worried if social networking doesn’t address the bigger concern, the connective nature of the Web could suffer.
“A lot of the very neat stuff that happens on the Web happens because we do stuff out in the open,” he said. “We let people see what coffee shop we’re in or what movie we’re watching, and it’s become like life used to be in a small town, where you could bump into people, and you didn't have to plan things explicitly.”
The solutions to both complaints may be linked, he said: “I think if people felt they could take their network with them, then Facebook would in some ways be forced to deal with those issues. It would breed competition, and that competition would probably center around issues of trust and privacy.”