I'm Leaving Facebook. Really.

This week Facebook members got a message that notified them of an update to the site's global privacy policy. I'm sure you've gotten dozens--if not hundreds--of privacy policy updates, terms of service notifications, and other similar messages over the years from the many online services you belong to. And most of you probably did what you always do--just clicked through and agreed to everything without reading it.

That's the default behavior.

The trouble is, Facebook tricked you. By simply clicking through and agreeing to everything, you basically opened up almost everything that was heretofore private in your profile--your relationships, spouse/children, personal pictures, religion, politics, etc.--to people you don't know and may not want to know (as did your children, if they also clicked the defaults.) Facebook did this for one reason, pure and simple--to expose your information to search engines and increase overall page traffic and ad impressions at your expense.

If the default response to their email was to keep your information private and only viewable by your friends, this would be just another incremental scheme to eke out a few more pennies per page from those who decided to opt in. But anyone who maintains a profile on a social networking site is well accustomed to these notices and is used to the convention that the default behavior should be to maintain the status quo, not to change it by opting in to reduced privacy. By playing on the human tendency to just click through those "boring" terms of service messages to get to playing Farmville or whatever, Facebook has crossed the line into actual evil--really. I'm not exaggerating here (remember Facebook Beacon? Google that and tell me this latest ploy was a harmless "oversight.")

So, I'm deleting my account in one week--if we are friends in real life, we're still friends. If we are friends-who-haven't-met-yet, I'm still around on Twitter, my various blogs, and sundry other destinations that you can find (under "Other Sites") at my personal page www.tomwebster.org. I hope you'll stay in touch--and I also hope you'll realize that sites like Facebook do come and go (MySpace, anyone?) and none of them are really all that important in the grand scheme of things. I don't need Facebook, and you don't either. I'm not dispensing advice here, and not advocating pulling your company fan page or anything like that--I wouldn't presume to judge anyone who decided to stay on Facebook. But I'm voting with my feet. I'll see you elsewhere in 2010.