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[liberationtech] CNN writer on leaving Facebook

Jon Lebkowsky jon.lebkowsky at
Tue Feb 26 11:36:54 PST 2013

I want to respond to Paul Bernal's post about why to leave Facebook, point
by point.

Privacy: I think the problem is not a lack of privacy, but an expectation
of privacy on the part of the user, who should definitely leave if she
considers privacy important. If you don't want to "be seen," by all means
"stay indoors."  I've never assumed that the information I've dumped online
is private, in fact I think that would be a crazy assumption. What we
really need is digital literacy education to help users understand the the
nature of the beast.

Real Names: Sure, that's an issue for some, and for them, Facebook is
probably not the platform of choice. But it doesn't bother me - I can see
arguments for an against anonymity, valid on either side. I think it's
important to have the possibility of anonymity in some contexts. Facebook
doesn't have to be one of them.

Monetization: How is Facebook making money with my data, other than by
serving me targeted ads? I'm not posting anything there that's especially
valuable. And I wouldn't. I don't think my "personal information" is such a
big deal, and while I've always argued that we should be able to control
our data and how it's used, I wouldn't leave Facebook over this issue. I
might nag 'em about it, though.

Profiling: I've never been able to see the issue here. Somebody gathers my
data to serve me ads for items I might want vs ads for items I don't care
about: where's the harm? I guess the worst case is that they might inform
the "authorities" that I'm a subversive whacko bohemian (who's also got a
boring suburban middle class alternate aspect)... I can't see how that will
ever bite me on the ass, though.

Facial recognition: To me, it's a trivial concern when it's happening on
Facebook. The bigger concern is broader and more sinister uses.

Monopoly: Facebook is big, for sure, but I'm not seeing it as a monopoly.
There are many ways to aggregate and share online. Facebook happens to be
pretty good, and it's attracted so many users that it has a powerful
network effect, but that actually makes it more useful. It doesn't feel
like the phone company (I'm old enough to remember THAT monopoly).

I probably shouldn't have taken time to write this response, but I think
Facebook-slamming is similar sport to "I don't watch television, except for
PBS..." I wouldn't want to make anyone feel guilty about either of those
choices.  The Internet is in deep trouble, there are real risks that we'll
lose this amazing free space over issues related to the value it's created
by being so free. I'd rather focus there, than on Facebook, which is the
least of my worries.

~ Jon

On Tue, Feb 26, 2013 at 9:47 AM, Michael Rogers <michael at>wrote:

> Hash: SHA1
> On 25/02/13 19:03, Raven Jiang CX wrote:
> > I think a subtle difference is what exactly the bargain entails. In
> > the case of television advertising, it's a relatively
> > straightforward exchange of your attention for entertainment.
> > Facebook is asking for more than that. The marketing is less
> > oppressive because they receive the addition payment of your
> > personal information. No one really knows what that information in
> > aggregate is worth or can be capable of achieving in the long term,
> > so I suppose implicitly the users (at least those aware of this
> > bargain) are betting on it being worth less than the services
> > Facebook provides.
> I don't think framing it as an individual bargain fully captures
> what's going on here. Each user gives Facebook information not only
> about themselves but about the people they know (including those who
> don't use Facebook). So it's a social dilemma or tragedy of the
> commons: the cost of each person's privacy choices is shared by
> others. Each user of Facebook produces a negative externality that
> affects those around them. As such, perhaps the appropriate metaphor
> is not "personal information as property" but "surveillance as pollution".
> Cheers,
> Michael
> Version: GnuPG v1.4.10 (GNU/Linux)
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> --
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Jon Lebkowsky (@jonl)
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Work: Polycot Associates <>: Advanced Internet
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