Tuesday, June 17, 2008

FaceSpace, MyBook...or something like that

Facebook, the phenomena that turned your average 23 year old computer geek into a billionare. (I'd speak on MySpace but I'm not a member and my knowledge of their functions is limited to the understanding of it's vast popularity) For many of us it's the excuse to "spy" into the lives of friends from yester-year, play ridiculous word games that are some how addicting and completely removed our need for a florist with the "Flower Gifts" application. It has given folks who don't know how, don't have time or who really don't care - to blog, the opprotunity to share their lives with the people they love, the people they knew and more often than we'd like to acknowledge, complete strangers. It's entertaining, addicting, confusing and becoming more dangerous than I could ever have imagined.

When I received an invitation for Facebook over a year ago from an old friend that I hardly hear from I jumped on the chance to keep in touch. It seemed like the perfect solution to bridge the gap in our lives that time and life changes brings - and to top it off, it was free! All they wanted from me was my e-mail address, my gender, my sexual preference if I wanted to disclose it (Corey....I mean duh? Have you seen him?) right moving on, um, my name and that was it. Before I knew it I was tapping into the lives of dozens of friends. I was seeing photos of kids I went to school with, finding out that so and so was out for a walk, playing scramble, and laughing at the stories of where people had gone, and who they'd become. Before I knew it 2 hours had passed and I still hadn't washed my dishes. That instant novelty wore off, but the pleasure of proudly posting photos of my husband and daugther quickly filled the space. Unlike blogging, which I primarily do because I love to write and I always want our family to feel like they're watching Bethany grow, I didn't have to spend an hour writing a post, editing it, spell checking again and then proof reading. Nor did I have to worry that a sarcastic comment would hurt someone's feelings or make me come across as an idiot, instead all I had to do was download them, take two minutes to attach who was who and then wait... Wait for those comments that every insecure and maybe a little attention hungry girl waits for. Yes, that's right, I wanted to hear how precious my daughter is (although really, I know it, God made her and how could she not be beautiful!)

As many of you know due to some information that we came across early this year Corey and I made the tough decision to remove photos of Bethany from Facebook and post them soley here on our blog. We also asked that family, friends and anyone else who had photos of Bethany online to please remove them, allowing only us to post those precious gems at our descresion. Each photo is carefully watermarked now, to prevent photo stealing like happened to my friend over at Dutch Blitz and aside from sending great shots to family in private e-mails this is where they stay. We felt this was a wise move, and although at first there were some people that were hurt and confused by this decision, ultimately everyone has understood that we are doing what is best for our family. I was comfortable with that decision and felt that again, my world was safe and so I kept on Facebooking.

Until now, over the past few weeks I have come across news stories and magazine articles warning against the dangers of Facebook and MySpace. The latest story from Vancouver Island's Chek News (that at this time I can't get the link for) told of how each application, Hockey Pool, Scramble, Are you Normal?, Quizes and hundreds more hold a secret danger. By allowing each application to access your profile and information you are also giving them access to your friends, their personal information, your personal information and on occassion you are also giving them access to what you are browsing on the internet (so you know last week when you were researching that funky odor coming from your feet, somebody may have been watching that) and other activities on your computer. Not only that, your Status updates, letting the misc internet know that you're out of town, walking alone or hanging at a local bar (not me but somebody), are open doors for creepos to find you, rob you, attack you....SCARY!!!! So that funny How Well Do You Know Me? quiz could possibly be opening up my PC to a world of strangers and thus exposing me in ways that are more uncomfortable than the first visit to a new Gyno.

Corey and I talked about it at length and we've made a really tough decision. We are deleting our Facebook accounts, in a few days. (We're taking the next few days to touch base with those whom we don't want to lose touch with again and exchanging e-mail addy's with) It's been a tough choice, not only is it great to keep in touch, I check on a daily basis to see who's posted new photos of themselves, their kids and their lives....I'm going to miss that. But what it's come down to is this, we survived just fine without Facebook before and we'll do it again. We'll see pictures the old fashioned way (through e-mails, blogs haha old fashioned, and snail mail), we'll keep in touch using that great long distance plan we pay for each month and I'll dedicate more time to keeping up this here blog.

I understand that our blog is still on the internet, I understand that our blog leaves us open to strangers too, but it's more controlled. This is an environment in which for the most part - I am not naive enough to think I completely control my blog world - I control what happens here, what's posted, what other sites access our computer etc. And if I felt at anytime this blog was posing the threat that some of these other "social networking" sites pose I'd delete it too. But for now, I feel it's safe, it's ours and if for nothing else, it's a space where I can vent, ramble, keep in touch with family and share with you all the chaos that is our daily lives.

For those of you who are still in the middle of their romance with Facebook, please don't take this as my direct stab at you. Please just consider what I've said, understand that this is my "house" and I can say what I want about whatever I want, and this is our opinion based on information from multiple sources. We just implore you to consider who you may or may not be allowing into the really personal details of your life.


Anonymous said...

Ofcourse I agree with whatever is said above now Facebook has become a part of day to day life which helps us in sharing our emootions feelings with number of people. So on this i would like to share an application which helps us to share our feelings with others more effectively. Yes i am talking about an application called Talking Photos . This application allows you to add movie lines and voice to any Facebook photo and share it with friends. Sure your pictures are already worth a 1000 words but adding a few more couldn't hurt.

Angella said...

It sounds like you guys have made a decision that will work for your family.

I have a Facebook account but mainly use it for email. Who has time for all of the applications? Not me. Mainly because I'd rather blog with what free time I have :)

Good for you guys for making decisions that you feel are best for your family!

Jen said...

I'm thinking of deleting my account too. Not because of the reasons you listed (which are startling and I was unaware of!) but because I need to get off the computer!

Good for you for making this decision for your family. :)

bbn said...

Hi - I am the developer of the Hockey Pool application that you mention above in your post. Your blog post came to my attention via a Google search.

I just wanted to let you know that as a developer I would never abuse or access any information that my application didn't require. For Hockey Pool I only access your first name, your networks, and your list of friends so that I can create a Friend pool for you.

The concept of trust is interesting. You have decided you don't trust Facebook, or Facebook app developers like me. But I would submit that we are way less dangerous than many other people you already have a relationship with. For instance, what about the company that provides your home internet service? An engineer sitting at Shaw or Telus has access to your entire data-stream. Email and general web-browsing are completely transparent, so if he was malicious he could read whatever he wanted. They may also provide you with telephone service, so he could listen to your voice conversations. Furthermore, that company knows personal information like your address.

What I'm trying to say is that you already have a relationship with people who are clearly more dangerous than Facebook developers like me. Statistically the most dangerous decision you make for your family is driving them around in a car - statistically the trust you place in other drivers is FAR more dangerous to your family's health than anything you can do online.

If I were malicious, all I could do is access the info you've entered on your profile page. So if you're concerned about Facebook privacy, the easy solution is to just limit what you put on your profile page!


Ashley said...

Thanks for the information Ben. Good to know your only collecting some of my personal information. I am glad you felt comfortable enough here to leave a comment, but it's really not accomplishing anything. As reassuring as it is that you aren't abusing your access can you promise me that the hundreds of other appliactions and people out there aren't abusing theirs?

Pointing fingers at other internet providers and programs isn't giving me more confidence in you and less in them. Although I don't control who at Telus sees what, at least they have a method of screening their employees, some sort of accountability system. Not that they are all trust worthy but what is Facebook doing to protect me? Do they do a back ground check? A criminal record check? At least that's done for the folks that come into your home with your internet and telephone services.

You are right putting my children in a car is dangerous, a danger that I consider each and everytime I drive. However, you critisizing me for driving with my daughter but not being willing to support you (because that's what it is right, dollars in your pocket?) is lowsy. You not only don't have the courage to leave an e-mail address for me to contact you at but you've now cemented in my mind that I made the right choice.

Like I said at the end of this post this is my "house" I'll say what I want and you can do with it what you want.

Thanks for your input and have a great day.

Terry Cameron said...

I know you have based your decision on what you think is best for your family, but I have to agree with Ben and say that knowledge of how Facebook works is the best defense.

The FUD (Fear, Doubt, Uncertainty) spread by news organizations that don't give the full story (aka haven't done their homework) is getting worse.

Facebook has a full set of privacy settings for your profile, pictures and everything Facebook related. It is very easy to lock down your account so that only people you trust see what you want them to see.

There is a way to make a lists of friends that you explicitly trust which gives them full access to all of your information and another list with strict privileges for those people who you are just "familiar" with.

You can even go as far as making it so that people cannot even find you unless YOU invite them to be your friend. Making you completely invisible to prying eyes.

I personally choose not to trust applications on Facebook because I think they distract from the real reason for using it and just add clutter.

If you are say that Facebook is unsafe, then you also have to be wary of Google and other websites because they track your web surfing for advertisements and data mining.

I must inform you that even your own website is not safe from prying eyes since you are listed on Google, Yahoo and other search engines. Images can be downloaded from your website this way as well. At least with Facebook you can set privacy settings so that only friends to see them.

Hope this gives you and others a little more information to take into consideration when using Facebook. If anyone has more questions you can ask me at my website.

bbn said...

Hi Ashley -

Sorry to have made you angry - that certainly was not my intention!

First of all, I have no problem ever sharing my email address. ben@mainsocial.com. Feel free to write me anytime. :)

My comments were not at all meant to "criticize" you. Of course you should feel free to make the decision that makes you most comfortable! I was just trying to point out that comfort is mostly a factor of psychology. Everybody make decisions based on what they understand of the risks and the value. I would never dare to presume what is valuable to you.

As for the money, having you use one of my application is not dollars in my pocket, it's more like one thousandth of a cent in my pocket. :) I certainly am not spending my time writing comments on your blog in order to make myself wealthier. I am writing because it genuinely makes me sad when poorly-written media stories spread what is known as FUD: Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. I truly believe the risk in installing a Facebook application is miniscule compared to all kinds of other things we all do every day.

But anyway, you should do what makes you feel good! Best wishes to you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ashley,

Ryan and I started to realize the dangers of facebook a few months ago and deactivated my account. One thing that surprised me was that eventhough it's deactivated it's never really deleted. At any time it's able to be accessed again. What i did was try to "remove" most of what I had uploaded(pictures) and the few applications that i had as well. It just showed us how cautious we need to be even when something is popular.
But good for you for protecting your family.


Anonymous said...

Hi Kiddo, Mom here.
I have decided to follow your lead. I think it is a fun thing to belong to Facebook but get tired of privacys (sp) being taken for granted. I will miss seeing the photos of everone, but really the people who really want to keep in touch will do so either by MSN Messenger (never had trouble with that) or by email. Thanks for the heads up Honey. Love you and Corey so much for protecting your family.

Love Mom and Dad (Grammy and Papa)