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May 31, 2010 is quit Facebook day. Facebook has been slammed in the technical and mainstream media for overly-complicated privacy controls. Some of the more cynical critics claim they were purposely designed to share a person’s details without them realizing.

Facebook’s privacy policy has 50 different settings, 170 different options and contains almost 6,000 words — it’s longer than the US Constitution! Facebook argue that multiple options are required to give a user full control over their privacy settings, but they are introducing a simplified page with 15 options. However, the company has stopped short of making all personal information visible to just friends by default.

A new campaign and website has been launched to warn users about the privacy issues. QuitFacebookDay.com claims:

For us it comes down to two things: fair choices and best intentions. In our view, Facebook doesn’t do a good job in either department. Facebook gives you choices about how to manage your data, but they aren’t fair choices, and while the onus is on the individual to manage these choices, Facebook makes it damn difficult for the average user to understand or manage this. We also don’t think Facebook has much respect for you or your data, especially in the context of the future.

For a lot of people, quitting Facebook revolves around privacy. This is a legitimate concern, but we also think the privacy issue is just the symptom of a larger set of issues. The cumulative effects of what Facebook does now will not play out well in the future, and we care deeply about the future of the web as an open, safe and human place. We just can’t see Facebook’s current direction being aligned with any positive future for the web, so we’re leaving.

You can sign up to express your opinion of Facebook and receive a reminder to delete your details.

Facebook Fight or Failure?

At the time of writing, QuitFacebookDay.com has a little under 25,000 sign-ups. Assuming every one of those people quits, the protest has attracted just 0.006% of Facebook’s 400 million users.

To many people, Facebook is the internet. QuitFacebookDay.com claims you could move to sites such as Twitter, Flickr, Orkut, and the yet-to-be-released Diaspora project. Perhaps these are viable alternatives — but could you persuade all your friends to adopt them too?

I not a Facebook fan. I begrudgingly use it, but won’t quit because several friends and colleagues prefer its messaging facilities over email or other forms of online communication.

People should understand that Facebook is a social website sitting on top of a publicly accessible network. Whether the privacy policies are dubious or not doesn’t matter: you should assume that all your information has the potential to be made public. Someone, somewhere will always be able to access your data.

Finance companies are already considering charging a home insurance premium to people who use social networks. Many systems allow you to enter your full address then alert followers with your current location … it’s an open invitation for burglars!

The simple rule is this: if you don’t want your personal information made public, don’t post it on the web. That’s especially true for sites where data sharing is an integral part of the system.