/Big Question/ Face-off

There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding Facebook recently, but at what point would you decide to delete your account?

Hosting provider
Neil Hodson
1&1 Internet Ltd

This topic is an easy one for me as I don’t have a Facebook profile, and with good reason.  I’ve resisted many calls from friends to be on Facebook. I believe passionately in business social networking and I must use LinkedIn everyday, but my private life and family life I wish to be away from public scrutiny.  Collaboration online can be of huge benefit to your business profile, but the purpose and value of a professional online identity is clear and wholly positive.  For me, there’s no pleasure or benefit in posting private material on Facebook and trying to reconcile my private pictures and dialogues with a social network’s potential plans for them.

Neil Hodson is the UK General Manager at 1&1 Internet, a global web hosting company and domain registrar with over 9 million customers

Marketing expert
David Donnan

Nowadays, Facebook always seems to be in the press for the wrong reasons, whether people are accusing it of not protecting privacy properly and damaging productivity at work or users are simply complaining about the latest redesign. Yet despite all of this, I still haven’t deleted my account. I am more likely to cancel it through sheer boredom, as there’s an increasing amount of irrelevant noise and people sharing their entire life histories online.  In that respect, I don’t have much sympathy for those users who claim that Facebook isn’t protecting their privacy, as they made the decision to post the information in the first place.

David is MD of MSG

Image expert
Kelly Thompson

I understand that Facebook needs to gather data that’s appealing to more advertisers. But at iStockphoto, we’ve always found that, as a community-based site, we have to really protect trust and discuss issues such as privacy. It’s always a struggle to define privacy rights versus commercial needs, and we’ve been fortunate in that our website hasn’t had to rely on advertising for profit.

Kelly is chief operating officer of iStockphoto

Ecommerce expert
Ben Dyer

I’ve been following the Facebook furore very closely. I’m an advocate for digital rights and privacy, so the news that Facebook has been a little naïve with our data is fairly concerning but not surprising. However, I think that there’s a side issue here. Our reliance on free (or very low cost) hosted solutions has become stratospheric in recent years. The temptation to use them is obvious, but there’s a catch: they’re not free. Very often, we pay with the disclosure of our private data. Google, Facebook and Microsoft all have offerings that use our data to maximise their revenue. Personally, I have no major issue with this. My mindset has always been that anything we upload to a free service is going to be used this way. If you’re feeling shocked or aggrieved, then you’re the one who’s being naïve; have you even read Facebook’s terms of use?

Has Facebook handled the privacy situation badly? Yes. Am I tempted to delete my account? No. However, if those pictures from the 2001 ski trip to Val Thorens ever surface then things may be different.

Ben is director of product development at Actinic

PR guru
Nancy Prendergast
Tannissan Mae

Facebook has done so much to advance the way the world interacts socially and create a vibrant space for developers and brands to build applications and relationships. But the ongoing privacy debacle exposes genuine trust issues for the site’s 400 million-plus global users.

Through it all, the web keeps on evolving. Instigators of change, such as Facebook, will often challenge us. As long as the site continues to keep a sense of community at the core of what it does, it will dominate.

Nancy is founder of PR company Tannissan Mae

Interactive media
Paul Dawson
EMC Consulting

I’ll delete my Facebook account when all my friends and relatives leave the site for good. By then, there’ll probably be other places where we can do the stuff that we do on Facebook – just witness the huge flood of kids who left MySpace to go to bebo. But until something else comes along, I’ll just work within the limitations of what’s there, as I would with any website or communications medium.

Paul is experience director at EMC Consulting

B3ta guy
Rob Manuel

Facebook is too handy to delete. Microsoft Word irritates me too, but I have to use it because everyone else does.

Rob is co-founder of B3ta, a website that “celebrates the best stuff on the internet”

Business specialist
Dickie Armour
Fibranet Services Ltd

I’ll delete my Facebook account when I feel that there’s no point in having it, not because of worry over privacy settings. The use of the word ‘privacy’ in association with social media always makes me smile. How can people expect their content to be private when they’re posting it on a community-based website? I can understand not wanting your information to be accessible to the world but, more importantly, I’ll bet most people hadn’t checked to see what their privacy settings were before this latest hoo-hah. Someone once said to me that you should only post stuff that you would be happy for your grandparents and future employers to see. Why people put their birthdays and mobile numbers online is beyond me! If you don’t want private things to be uncovered, don’t stick them on the web.

I love social media. When I add something to Facebook, I feel as though I’m updating a diary of my life that will be part of my legacy. I would love to have been able to go online and read my great-great-grandfather’s posts. How cool would that be? I like to think that, in 2150, my great-great-great-grandchildren might be on their iWrist Nano Pads reading my tweets and blog posts. So I don’t see any reason to close my Facebook account anytime soon.

But people need to think carefully about how they use social networks. I’m wary about what I post. For example, you won’t find any personal photos of my family online that I’ve put up there. And if I ever get tagged in any pictures that I don’t want to be associated with, I simply untag myself. I recently updated all my privacy and account settings, so I’m very happy with what may or may not escape into the public domain about me. Just never let anyone know that I was on Blind Date!

Dickie is general manager of Fibranet

Hosting guru
Dominic Monkhouse

I wouldn’t delete my Facebook account because it’s where all my friends and family are. If I left, I would need to ring my mother; on Facebook, she can see what I’m doing and it saves us both a lot of time!

Dominic is UK MD at PEER 1

Hosting specialist
Neil Barton
Hostway UK

For a lot of people, Facebook has become a second email address, so I can sympathise with those who feel that their personal data and privacy is under threat. However, at the same time, let’s not forget that the site is free to use, so an expectation of the highest level of security from it is wishful thinking. At the end of the day, how much or how little information someone shares online is up to them.

That said, I do think that Facebook needs to regain the confidence of a lot of its users following the recent controversies. It was built for profit and its biggest asset is, clearly, its user base. Without that, there isn’t a business there. As a consumer, it was good to see that Facebook held its hands up and admitted that it needs to show greater clarity with its privacy settings. Hopefully, if it can show that it isn’t taking its users for granted and be clearer from the outset, we won’t need to think about deleting our accounts and can get back to tagging holiday photos and writing on each others’ walls.

Neil is the director of Hostway UK

UI guru
Adam Bankin
Fortune Cookie

I started using Facebook back in 2006, just after another privacy storm over the introduction of the News Feed feature (now completely acceptable) blew up. A year later, I barely felt a breeze of interest during the site’s Beacon advertising kerfuffle. Now we have a debate over Open Graph and the web-wide Like button and, as far as concern for my privacy goes, I’m still standing at an open window in a loose-fitting towel. Metaphorically.

Why am I so unbothered? Well, apart from a lack of incriminating photos on my Facebook page, it’s because my friends are there. Sheep-like as it seems, if my mates trust it, then I’m going to trust it. The only way that Facebook could drive me away would be by devaluing my perceived intimacy of interactions with friends – if they forced me to let anyone post to my wall, for example, or allowed my personal conversations to be broadcast to the wider web. Or, to extend the metaphor a little too far, if they tore down the walled garden and allowed a strong breeze to blow the towel away. No one wants to see that.

Adam is UI developer at Fortune Cookie

Project manager
Ané-Mari Peter

The arrogance that Facebook has shown in handling user data is astounding for two precise reasons: there are more than 400 million people affected by the decisions of Mr Zuckerberg and the site is a social one. I don’t have a problem with sharing personal data with my friends – that is, after all, the point of Facebook. But I do have an issue when that data suddenly appears randomly on other sites and profiles. I’m not the most active Facebook user in the world (I just don’t have the time) but, since their recent, surreptitious settings changes, I’ve actively removed information, just in case, and reduced my usage quite a bit. One more stunt and I’ll be off!

Information privacy law clearly states that for data to be shared with third parties, a user must actively opt in. Facebook’s approach appears to be to share everything until they get caught. It’s much too late by that point, of course, as the information is irretrievably out there. Personally, I haven’t been affected by the site’s inadvertent changes, but mortified friends and family have. If Facebook hadn’t listened to its users and launched the advanced privacy settings, I would have deleted my account in protest.

Ané-Mari is the co-founder of on-IDLE

Software specialist
Siim Vips

I wouldn’t delete my Facebook account because I use it to see the directions in which the network is developing and growing. I apply the same principle to other social sites that I’m a member of. Perhaps it’s ordinary users who don’t normally read privacy policies or terms and conditions, accepting everything and not caring about, or realising, the impact that such terms could have. It’s a shame, because they are among the groups that don’t necessarily know how to protect their privacy.

Siim is founder and CEO of Modera

Payments expert
Jon Prideaux

At what point do you decide to delete your Facebook account? There’s lots of stuff that I don’t want my boss to see, different things that I don’t want to share with my mum and other information that I want to keep from my kids. In the real world, people live in different circles, sharing and not sharing information on a case-by-case basis and living in compartments.

My kids started to use Facebook less when these social circles started to intersect. Their aunts wanted to be their online friends and they didn’t want too many details of their nocturnal activities to be known. When they started to realise that complete strangers could see what they were up to, they began to fiddle with the privacy settings. But quit? Never!

Jon is deputy CEO of SecureTrading

Media & PR expert
Tim Gibbon
Elemental Communications

I doubt that I’ll delete my Facebook account. I’ve rarely withdrawn from an online community because of the sheer amount of time I spend within them, both from a business and personal perspective. I’ve come across many networks that don’t really allow their users to delete details completely, and it’s not reassuring. Goodness knows how long that data appears on the systems unless people press to eradicate it.

When you take a step back and look at Facebook and its founder (who is perhaps not mature enough to be making decisions that have such wide implications) and the impact that the site has on a reported user base of more than 400 million people, it’s incredible. It’s considered to be the web’s largest social network (but prefers to be referred to as a ‘social utility’), so does have a lot of clout at the moment. This popularity doesn’t seem to be slowing down, and a large number of brands are lining up to build Facebook’s kudos even more, sometimes with unbelievable ignorance.

However, the status and digital wealth that the site’s amassing doesn’t excuse its responsibilities when it comes to protecting privacy and making sure that terms and conditions can be understood easily. Given the confusion over its consistently updated policies, the privacy problem is, rightly, national news. Many users are not fully aware of the changes, or of what the repercussions can be if they aren’t taking proper precautions in managing settings.

Social networks and other similar platforms have created personal brands for themselves, some of which are more popular than others. One thing that they share more than ever before is that they can all be accessible to the web. Thanks to deals between Google and several community-driven networks, microblogs are being trawled and indexed and the search engine will be reaching deeper into social environments. Personal and financial information – a dangerous cocktail if placed into the wrong hands – could become easy to find.

Facebook needs to adopt a better train of thought, addressing the need to opt in rather opt out and not expecting their users to be savvy or bothered enough to sift through legal and technical jargon. It may take a while, but the users that Facebook claim to know so well could shape the social utility by voting with their likes and dislikes.

Tim is director of Elemental Communications


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