Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Why I won't be leaving Facebook on "Quit Facebook Day"

The online buzz at the moment is the new security settings on Facebook and the discussion about how ethical the owner of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, is with our personal information. If you want to read a long summary of the issues involved, read what Danah Boyd has to say in her post "Facebook and “radical transparency” (a rant)". A shorter and less academic summary of the issues can be found on the post "Facebook Exodus Planned for May 31: Will You Quit?" written by Jennifer Van Grove.

What will I do?
After reading around the issues, I have decided to keep my Facebook account for the time being.

The main reason for this is I have found it is the best way to connect with midwives. For some reason, midwives have really taken to Facebook, more so than Twitter. You only have to look at the success of the Virtual International Day of the Midwife this year to see how effective Facebook is for communicating with midwives.

What will other midwives do?
I asked midwives on the Virtual International Day of the Midwife fan page if they will be leaving Facebook. Here are a few of the replies:

"my privacy settings are pretty private and I use Facebook more for my personal life, and some general midwifery chitchat/awareness/discussion/articles -confidentiality not an issue here :)"

"If you set your settings right there's no issue."

"i have most of my info public. i'm still not worried."

"Staying.. wonderful way to promote what I believe in.."

"Sometimes the only way i can keep up with what is happening with family and friends around the world and they my happenings! I get bogus cals from Skype but I just delete them not disconnect!!"

Mixed feelings
I do not have concerns about privacy because I have a very open online identity. However, I do have concerns about the security of my information - I want complete control over who sees what information. And I am concerned for people who do not fully understand the implications of privacy settings, or what happens to their personal information. Here is a comment that pretty much reflects the quandary I feel I am in with Facebook.

"At the International Day of the Midwife webinar session, I was a little surprised to learn that FB is not only for profit, but that they are selling my information to bidders everywhere (despite my privacy settings). It may not appear in a Google search, but my info and posts are being stored out there and someone paid good money for it all. I thought all my information would be safe if I stayed on the highest privacy settings. Not so.

Though I completely understand why many birth advocates are packing up and moving on, I'm torn on the issue of losing my daily connection to all my non-birthy friends on FB. Many of my non-techy and non-birthy friends simply are not yet willing to make the move to micro blogging. :(

Informed choice
For the time being I am going to watch and wait, and see where Facebook takes us. Until another alternative materializes that midwives fully engage with, I'm going to stay with Facebook. However, I feel it is really important for me (and you) to stay up to date with developments so I can make a truly informed choice about how I represent myself online, and the tools I use to do so.

In the meantime, here are a few tips I have put together for using Facebook.

How informed are you about your online identity? When was the last time you read the terms of use of Facebook or other social networking tool you use? How do you use your security settings?


starpath said...

In full agreement with you Sarah. Risks and benefits need to be weighed and by far, the benefits come out on top. There are multiple ways of communicating and each is useful for different circumstances. Take it or leave it (Facebook) ....still the choice is yours.

Sarah Stewart said...

As I said, Starpath, I think it is important to be informed. But I do worry about...say, for example, my kids and their understandings of security, online identity etc

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