Escape Facebook’s grasp

by Madison Hopkins

MCT Campus

Who knows you the best? If you make a mental list, it would probably include family and maybe close friends, not an online social networking community. Unfortunately for Facebook’s 955 million monthly active users, this is no longer the case. Facebook has steadily increased its access to private information, releasing it to outside companies. It’s common to find a “Login with Facebook” button on a multitude of sites to let our “friends” know what we’re doing. Our entire existence can be recorded and reported on a single website specialized in sharing every detail of what we post online. It has left me, along with others, asking how we can limit sharing our personal information only with the people we choose to.

Recently, Facebook added new features and regulations to its ever-growing online empire, allowing even more invasion into our private lives. In an attempt to combat cyberbullying and help those in severe emotional distress, Facebook announced its suicide prevention strategy, in partnership with the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. With this new policy, users can report when someone posts a seemingly suicidal comment or status.

Then the Facebook user will receive an email urging him or her to seek help. It’s clearly a well-intentioned policy and, if utilized correctly, could greatly benefit those in need. However, this new strategy means someone can be constantly surveying your online activity for potential suicidal keywords. I’m not entirely convinced that in the midst of a suicide attempt, an email would do much to aid the situation. It might even go unnoticed in the midst of the larger crisis.

Facebook doesn’t limit itself to life or death situations. It now allows for an increase in targeted advertising on users’ pages. Previously, ads were targeted based on online activity and “likes.” Now, Facebook allows online advertisers to cross-reference records to personalize advertising content for consumers. Now, not even checking the little box at the end of your online shopping experi- ence to avoid advertisements from the store can help you. Facebook has allowed them into your newsfeed and your life.

I’m not a fan of being bombarded by past, and possibly regretted, shopping decisions. Nor do I approve of my personal information being shared without my consent in an online environment teeming with identity theft and hackers.

Facebook even takes it upon itself to fight crime, with staff and tech- nology on hand to monitor online chats for potentially illegal behavior. This is primarily meant to observe the conversations of possible sexual predators. I commend Facebook for its proactive stance on online sexual harassment, but I still cannot help feeling violated by someone snooping into my private conversations. Even if the chances of someone actually reading my conversations are slim, I still think before I share personal and potentially embarrassing information in my supposedly confidential chats.

The final straw in my disillusion- ment was the denial of anonymity in my favorite Facebook activity: stalking. When I log in, I generally start off with an innocent scan of my newsfeed. Eventually this escalates into a full-blown investigation of the current happenings in an ex-boyfriend, new friend or random person’s life. Does this make me sound kind of pathetic? Probably. But you’d be lying if you said you don’t also do it. Unfortunately for us profile stalkers, our covers may soon be blown. Facebook now shows which users have viewed group and event pages. Unless you want everyone to know you’re checking out who is going to the party you weren’t invited to, you better steer clear of those pages.

My real concern with this new policy is where it stops. If Facebook has taken these steps in the wrong direction, it may not be long until someone is notified every time a user looks at his or her profile.

Despite all these new regulations and the seemingly constant complaints about relentless changes, Facebook is still growing. Accord- ing to Digital Buzzblog, one in 13 people on Earth use Facebook. It seems the growing animosity hasn’t driven many people away. It comes down to a simple fact that no one is making you join if you don’t want to. So I now have to make a choice: deactivate the account I made so many years ago, or learn to share my personal information with everyone, including Facebook employees. May- be it’s time I took my own advice and made the deactivation leap to save whatever privacy I have left.