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I'm no longer writing on this blog. The new blog is over here: Pursuit of Redemption.

Why I'm Deleting My Facebook Account

Posted by – 6/3/10

I joined Facebook several years ago because I was getting fed up with Myspace. I wanted a place to post a few interesting things—quotes, photos, and the like—and I wanted it to be on a social network that didn’t look so haphazardly put together. I hated how poor code and ridiculous profile themes continuously crashed my browser. I hated how long it took Myspace pages to load. I hated how public it all appeared to be: I just wanted to share information with friends and know exactly how public that information became.

One of the things I really liked about Facebook was that it was inherently more private. At the time, only those with an email address provided by a university could join. It was more exclusive, and it fostered a fairly widespread assumption that Facebook meant connecting with people you actually knew in real life. It wasn’t Myspace: you didn’t just request to be a friend with someone because you liked their profile picture or thought their quotes were hilarious. If someone wasn’t a friend, they couldn’t see your stuff.

This was the assumption anyway, and it was an assumption we all had because, well, Facebook’s Privacy Policy promised us our information wouldn’t be available to anyone but those with whom we had a specific connection on the social network. Our information was available explicity: we knew exactly who would get to see it. But over the last 5 years, Facebook’s Privacy Policy has revealed that the company who runs Facebook isn’t who we thought they were. They’re not at all committed to our privacy, despite their earlier promises. They’re interested in harvesting our data and selling it to the highest bidder, our consent be damned. Check this scathing blog post for great background information on Facebook’s assault on users’ privacy along with a Top 10 list of why you should delete your Facebook account.

This company’s behavior proves them to be completely irresponsible with their users’ data, and it’s not a mistake. It’s a major character flaw for the whole organization. They tried Beacon, their first siege against users’ privacy. More recently they’ve added Instant Personalization, another major privacy coup. Whereas Beacon would post to Facebook your activities on other websites (did you hear the unfortunate tale of the boyfriend who bought an engagement ring on Overstock, only to find it published to his friends’ News Feeds?), Instant Personalization sends your Facebook information to third-party sites without your consent. That’s right: another breach of information privacy from which Facebook makes it hard to opt-out.

Every time Facebook has made a major change in the way it uses your information, it has done so with a total lack of transparency and in a way that defaults to the most public settings available. The problem isn’t that they’ve unwittingly released users’ information; clearly their network isn’t as secure as even they think it is. But as the EFF notes, this pattern of behavior just proves Facebook doesn’t care about your privacy in the slightest and doesn’t feel bound at all to keep its promises:

Viewed together, the successive policies tell a clear story. Facebook originally earned its core base of users by offering them simple and powerful controls over their personal information. As Facebook grew larger and became more important, it could have chosen to maintain or improve those controls. Instead, it’s slowly but surely helped itself — and its advertising and business partners — to more and more of its users’ information, while limiting the users’ options to control their own information.

They can apologize all they want, but those of us who uploaded and shared things over the years under the impression that Facebook would remain true to their promises have been burned. This is a classic bait-and-switch: they promised us that we’d have ultimate control of our information, and once we took them up on their offer and they possessed our data, they changed the rules of the game. That’s completely unethical.

Will this public outcry mean the end of Facebook? Probably not. Most people won’t switch because there’s not a more attractive alternative. Most users aren’t thinking about the possibility that every single thing they post to Facebook might affect a future relationship, a job interview, a lawsuit, ability to get insurance coverage, etc. Most people, sadly, don’t care about their own privacy.

But I do. I never wanted my Facebook profile to be this public. Twitter is different. Twitter is an inherently public messaging network with a single, refreshingly simple option for privacy– Protect my tweets: Only let people whom I approve follow my tweets.

At this point, it’s time to delete my account, and that means my public Facebook page (which I set up for the public stuff) goes out the window with it. I can’t support a company that treats its users like this, and I can’t recommend or encourage anyone else to be part of the social network either. I’ll be advertising this all over Facebook for the next week, then my profile will go black. I highly recommend you join me. Don’t just deactivate your account; they’ll retain all your information. Delete it.

(If you do want to delete your account, you cannot try to log in for the following 14 days or Facebook will reactivate your account. After the 14 day delay, the account is permanently deleted along with, so they say, all of your information.)

If something else comes along to replace it, like Diaspora, then great. If not, maybe I’ll enjoy seeing all of you in the real world.

Update: In case you hadn’t heard, recent IMs uncovered from the early days of Facebook reveal Zuckerberg calling us all “dumb f***s” for just handing over our info to him. Does this sound like the kind of guy you’d trust your information with? And trust to collude with other websites to automatically share your web activity (buying gifts, renting cars, making travel plans that reveal you won’t be home)? This isn’t the behavior of someone who believes “very much in transparency and the vision of an open society.” If that campaign rhetoric were remotely true, he wouldn’t have promised his users privacy and then changed the rules of the game many, many times in the last 5 years.

Learn from Facebook’s own history, friends. The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result. Don’t be insane.

The Nashville Flood

Posted by – 5/4/10

It is now Tuesday, and I still can’t process what my city is going through. I am personally almost unaffected; the worst I’ve experienced is a lack of power for 7 hours. I live on a hill, and didn’t experience any flooding around my property. My car is fine. I even have access to the nearby Kroger, also situated on a hill.

But my city! Oh… Nashville. My heart breaks for my neighbors. Parts of East Nashville along the river are in ruins. Downtown was underwater up to parts of 3rd Avenue as of yesterday when I went to see the damage for myself. The entire Opry Mills and Opryland Hotel property is underwater.

We can’t help but feel frustration that the national news media has barely been able to muster a Boy, that sure was a lot of rain in middle Tennessee this weekend. Our city has been up-ended. This will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to repair and rebuilt, though some of what has been lost was simply irreplaceable. We may have lost the historic Grand Ole Opry House.

Where was God during this whole thing? some will surely ask. My pastor offers up some clarifying thoughts in a post.

There was a moving piece written on a hockey blog earlier today, and it captures both our frustration and our resolve. We Are Nashville.

Pray for us, we’ll need it. Spread the word: not that we merely want attention or need pity, but we’ll need people to know if there is any hope of our fellow Americans showing their trademark generosity during our rebuilding efforts. I’m grateful for Keith Olbermann’s comment on Nashville and what we’re going through. I hope more voices with national exposure include us in their comments.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

And finally, I am so proud of my good friend Michael Deppisch, whose talent I’ve always thought was undervalued. He ventured out into the rain on Sunday to capture this. It now has over 100,000 views on YouTube. Thanks for telling the story, Michael.

UPDATE: Here’s a photo of Nashville as of Monday, May 3rd. Not one I took, but one that’s been floating around Twitter and Facebook, and it makes an immediate impression of the devastation downtown Nashville has seen. Also be sure to check out this photo roundup from Boston.com. It’s easily the most representative, highest-quality photo essay of the Nashville Flood that I’ve seen.

Waxman cancels witch hunt after being reminded of the Constitution

Posted by – 4/14/10

You read that title right. Apparently after a gentle reminder of the people’s right to free speech by Rep. Barton, Waxman canceled his intimidation hearings for next week.

As surprising as it was to find out that Waxman wanted to investigate companies merely for following the laws Congress itself had passed, this comes as an even bigger surprise. I’m actually stunned. Am I awake? Is this real life?

Surprise! We discover they didn't read the bill after all

Posted by – 4/13/10

So this…

In a new report, the Congressional Research Service says the law may have significant unintended consequences for the “personal health insurance coverage” of senators, representatives and their staff members.

For example, it says, the law may “remove members of Congress and Congressional staff” from their current coverage, in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, before any alternatives are available.

The confusion raises the inevitable question: If they did not know exactly what they were doing to themselves, did lawmakers who wrote and passed the bill fully grasp the details of how it would influence the lives of other Americans?

…makes this all the sweeter:

As Allahpundit puts it on HotAir, “In other words, theoretically the law kicks them out of the federal health plan now in order to force them to join insurance exchanges … that don’t exist yet.”

It’s just so delicious to hear the Democrats enthusiastically lie about reading a bill that was not only humanly impossible to have read by that time but would so soon after provide them with a swift kick in the teeth. The unintended consequences of government meddling, indeed!

At some point, supporters of big government are going to have to get tired of being wrong. All. The. Time.

Where do you fall politically?

Posted by – 4/5/10

It’s always an interesting thing to see the disparity between how people label themselves and how they’d be measured against the real definitions of those various labels. (Words have real meanings, you know. Quit being so post-modern, you hippy!)

So how do you measure up? Take a quick 10 question quiz to find out! Then give your result in the poll below.

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

My New Facebook Page

Posted by – 3/24/10

I’ve been hesitant to connect this blog to my personal Facebook profile because I’ve always seen Facebook as something personal (despite swarms of evidence to the contrary, I know). It was very different from MySpace in that way: I never would accept people as friends unless I’d actually gotten to know them in real life.

Then I started gaining some public traction in the world of politics, and I began to see a huge increase in the number of people who wanted to friend me on Facebook just to connect with me politically. (And to be honest, the number of event invitations, group invitations, and page invitations I receive now is absurd.) Well, this weekend I made sure that followers of my writing can follow me on Facebook and I can keep my Facebook profile separate and personal. Does that mean I’ll never post something political to my personal profile again? Of course not. But the majority of the dialogue (and I really do want it to be a dialogue) on current events, politics, philosophy, religion, etc., will take place on my new Facebook Page.

The Heartless Compassion of Big Government

Posted by – 3/21/10

Those of us on the liberty-loving side of things are often confused with the uncharitable, the enemy of those in need. It’s not so much that we hate the poor, though, as we’re disgusted by those who, against the clear advice of history, advocate passionately for the sake of their own conscience that someone else’s money should be confiscated and shoved through the gauntlet of wildly inefficient government bureaucracies with only a tiny portion left at the end for the truly needy. The poor deserve so much more than the heartless compassion of big government.

A Chivalrous Pantsing

Posted by – 3/8/10

This is the preferred way of handling a bully. Pants them.

Democracy versus Republicanism

Posted by – 2/17/10

“…democracy is, properly speaking, necessarily a despotism, because it establishes an executive power in which ‘all’ decide for or even against one who does not agree; that is, ‘all,’ who are not quite all, decide, and this is a contradiction of the general will with itself and with freedom.”

- Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace.

Obama Administration so very different from Bush

Posted by – 2/12/10

From CNET:

[T]he Obama administration has argued that warrantless tracking is permitted because Americans enjoy no “reasonable expectation of privacy” in their–or at least their cell phones’–whereabouts. U.S. Department of Justice lawyers say that “a customer’s Fourth Amendment rights are not violated when the phone company reveals to the government its own records” that show where a mobile device placed and received calls.

Hope! Change!