Infographic: Facebook's "anti-privacy monopoly"


In an essay and handy infographic, DeObfuscate lays out the inverse relationship between Facebook's growing market share and the erosion of user privacy.

Related:'s list of 10 reasons you should delete your account on Facebook, and why Primevector thinks canceling out of Facebook is a great idea right about now.

Finally, words of wisdom tweeted by Tim Spalding over the weekend:

Why do free social networks tilt inevitably toward user exploitation? Because you're not their customer, you're their product.
(via EFF)


  1. Whew, that was close…I’d come *this close* to forgetting that Capitalization helps readers find the Important Words.

  2. Facebook has even made it difficult to actually delete one’s account. If you really want to delete it, you have to hunt around to find out how. The default option they give you is to “deactivate” your account (they keep all of your information intact when you do that.)

  3. Count me as in the “already deleted this once I saw how Zucked up it was” category. That list of ten is actually very good and voices many of my concerns accurately. Don’t allow yourself to be “Zucked”. I am not sure I understand those that allow Facebook to monetize (and profit) from their very life data (once they understand the consequences). Personally, I value my life much more than to just give it away for free. Do you?

  4. Okay, but the graphic is wrong. You can easily limit your list of friends to friends only, for example. Instant personalization is horrible, so turn it off and block the relevant apps. (And you should blame Pandora at least as much as Facebook for their creepy preference sharing.)

    FB does need to watch out, however, lest they become the next MySpace. The “influentials” are clearly looking for something better, and soon enough they’ll find it. Orkut anyone?

    1. FB does need to watch out, however, lest they become the next MySpace. The “influentials” are clearly looking for something better, and soon enough they’ll find it. Orkut anyone?

      As much fun as Orkut was, there’s no point exchanging FB for another service with the same structure, because the same structure will inevitably lead to the same structural problems.

      Any time there’s a free service financed through advertising, as the tweet says, you’re not their customer, you’re their product.

      Personally I’m hoping for a peer-to-peer social network (mine or somebody else’s), but we’ll see what happens.

    2. Orkut? If you are worried about privacy do you really want to give more information to Google?

  5. It’s a great idea about now that I never signed up in the first place!

    Except my pals all tag me in their pictures, so I kind of am part of it anyway.

    So much for that.

  6. As an address book (with profile pic included) Facebook is pretty good – and it’s what I use it for. However, I have wanted to leave for a while, as soon as I find an alternative online address book.
    Is there something that might work on PHP for example? – I’ve looked but haven’t found a standalone app to substitute FB yet. I’m open to suggestions!

  7. aj #4: You’re mistaken.
    “While you do have the option to hide your Friend List from being visible on your profile, it will be available to applications you use and websites you connect with using Facebook “


    “The addition of these new pages mean that certain parts of your profile, “including your current city, hometown, education and work, and likes and interests” will now be transformed into “connections,” meaning that they will be shared publicly. If you don’t want these parts of your profile to be made public, your only option is to delete them.”

    1. Right, so don’t use applications or “connect” with websites.

      Don’t get me wrong, I think it totally sucks, but it’s not (yet) reason to quit FB, for me at least.

      Easiest option to forget about “connections” is to put the text in Notes that only friends can see.

  8. Zuckerberg’s right about people not wanting privacy very much, though (as the growth of social networking shows). Consider this conversation between the protagonist and an AI surveillance program from the game Deus Ex, which came out in 2000, before all these social networking sites.

    I was a prototype for Echelon IV. My instructions are to amuse visitors with information about themselves.
    I don’t see anything amusing about spying on people.
    Human beings feel pleasure when they are watched. I have recorded their smiles as I tell them who they are.
    Some people just don’t understand the dangers of indiscriminate surveillance.
    The need to be observed and understood was once satisfied by God. Now we can implement the same functionality with data-mining algorithms.
    Electronic surveillance hardly inspired reverence. Perhaps fear and obedience, but not reverence.
    God and the gods were apparitions of observation, judgment, and punishment. Other sentiments toward them were secondary.
    No one will ever worship a software entity peering at them through a camera.
    The human organism always worships. First it was the gods, then it was fame (the observation and judgment of others), next it will be the self-aware systems you have built to realize truly omnipresent observation and judgment.
    You underestimate humankind’s love of freedom.
    The individual desires judgment. Without that desire, the cohesion of groups is impossible, and so is civilization. The human being created civilization not because of a willingness but because of a need to be assimilated into higher orders of structure and meaning. God was a dream of good government. You will soon have your God, and you will make it with your own hands.

  9. Worth noting how many of Facebook’s users aren’t aware of these events, or how much of their content has gone from private to public.

    At our library we’ve printed out articles from Wired and other sites explaining how to set your privacy settings as high as you like.

    At least once a day someone, teenagers to full-grown adults, will remark how they had no idea how much of their data was being shared. Frightening stuff.

  10. After reading his quotes and interviews on privacy, Mark Zuckerberg strikes me as kind of a dick. No wonder he got some funding from the right wing.

    Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t care about, nor understand the importance of privacy. He proves it though his actions and his own words.

    Such a shame. Yet another evil nerd.

  11. I’d be happy to close my facebook account. The lack of privacy and ownership has a cost. But I’m not willing to be ‘first mover’. Among my circle of friends, closing a facebook account would be like throwing away a phone. In theory, there are other social websites besides facebook, and in theory, there are other ways to communicate besides social websites. In practice (at least in my circle) everyone uses facebook.

  12. Down with Facebook! ;-)

    I don’t trust Zuckyburger either!

    Waaay tooo pompous!

    Thought it was creepy from the beginning (back when is was just a college thing)!

    Never will join!

    People are sheeple, insecure, need attention, affirmation.

    Granted, it can be good to keep in touch with buddies/family, I get that, fine.

    But, there are other means besides Facebook.

    The value of a relationship doesn’t change by being facebook “friends.”

    It will be irrelevant in 5 years anyhow. Communication will only become more and more instantaneous and easy. There will be no need to be associated with single web-portal.

    For you Facebook freaks out there, enjoy it while it lasts…


    -Anonymous (just the way I like it)

  13. An interesting alignment of replies, Cowicide’s followed by bkad’s.

    Is Zuckerberg evil, nor understand the importance of privacy? Or is he just playing at the game of Market Principles? If you look at that graph and bkad’s insightful statement regarding the group dynamic at work with all his/her friends belonging and the social pariah one becomes in not participating, it all reflects more on human nature than evil. Everyone wants to belong, at any cost, and people like Zuckerberg are ready to exploit it( hey, another human trait!).

    The Facebook phenomenon reminds me of Apple’s success in building a closed platform, ruled with an iron fist. The masses just can’t get enough.

  14. I feel the need to Tweet this.
    Seriously, I have a Facebook account but am hesitant to close it due to the fact that my elderly parents having been sucked in; it is now almost the only way we communicate over the hundreds of kilometers.
    Zeriously Zucks.

    1. You mean they can use Facebook, but yet they can’t figure out email? Hmmm… Last I checked email is easier to use than Facebook and much more personal and private. I think you’ll both survive and still communicate without teh Facebook and it’ll take less effort to boot.

  15. I don’t get it, doesn’t this graph imply that they should just keep right on trucking because it doesn’t matter how much they data they expose?

    Anyway, I’ve created a group called “Anything PRIVATE shall never be made PUBLIC”, in hopes to generate enough support to lobby Facebook to amend its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and the Privacy Policy in a simple, clear way that would prevent any future privacy infractions from ever occuring.

    Check it out here, if interested:

    I think the first step is a “anything private shall never be made public”-esque rule, and the next step is to work backwards and plug the holes that have been opened over the years.

  16. It’s funny that anybody thought it was private in the first place. I ignored it until just recently and finally signed up for business reasons, and I don’t post anything there that I wouldn’t post on a blog.

  17. Ironically, the period of relatively flat growth of Facebook correlates to the time when Facebook announced the Universal Opt Out feature. And overall, this graph actually proves Zuckerberg’s point — generally speaking, most people are willing to sacrifice some privacy in exchange for greater and deeper social connectivity.

    Or to put it another way, since Facebook makes it much easier for you to find and connect with a long lost friend or family member on the Internet, do you really care all that much that the ads on the sidebar were precisely targeted at you? You can see the majority’s answer to that question in this graph.

  18. I remember my friends all asking me if I was on Myspace, and being confused when I said I wasn’t.

    Then it was Facebook, and I relented, BUT with the caveat that I used a fake name and fake photos. So, am I on Facebook or not? Hmmmmm. . . .

  19. A couple months ago, Eben Moglen gave a talk for the Internet Society at NYU. His point was that as our private data migrated from our personal computers into the cloud, we increasingly lost control over what remained private. Since we generally entered into these agreements on the basis that our “private” information was probably private, mostly private, or expected to be private, folks are a bit shocked to find out that these businesses in the cloud are turning our private data into profit by liquidating the privacy part.

    Eben went on to suggest that with such technologies as tiny home servers, we should be considering open source (free as in freedom variety,) social networking software that allows us to own our data by moving it out of the cloud and back to our homes. It’s not a stretch to consider moving that data to for-hire web hosting services, if you’re not comfortable running something at home (hosted blogs at WordPress and Typepad come to mind as examples,) but there’s really little good reason to give Facebook or MySpace or Google a monopoly on housing your personal data, or making unchallenged decisions about what they deem private or public when it comes to your data.

    To that end, a few computer science students took up his challenge to build a software stack. They’re bootstrapping it over at and hope to spend this summer coding instead of interning. They’ve got a fair amount of us cheering them on, and while the highways are littered with the wrecks of open social networks that haven’t taken off (or are still slipping,) there is little reason to believe that we cannot achieve a credible open source, user-controlled alternative to Facebook.

    Take a look – don’t just sit around expecting to be entertained (or exploited,) do something about it. :)

    1. Wow. I’ve been idly speculating about what it would take to replace FB with something where the information was owned by us, not a central company, and where we decide what we share, with whom, when. There’s not a ton of information on but the concept is, I think, really fantastic. Thanks for sharing.

    2. social networking software that allows us to own our data by moving it out of the cloud and back to our homes

      This is impossible. Once it’s open, it’s open. That’s the way the internet works. There are local copies of everything everywhere.

      If you don’t want something to be known on the internet, do not post it on the internet. It’s a simple rule.

  20. As a future clinical psychologist it is extremely important that I manage what my name is attached to on the net, and hence on google searches. Thank goodness I’ve never posted my actual full name on any blog or comments section that could be searched. My facebook page has one photo of me and nothing else. I signed up to it because I was missing invitations to parties since my friends did them all on Facebook! What annoys me is when people take photos of me, tag me, and then make those albums easily available. Thank goodness there are no embarrassing drunk photos of me on Facebook, as many of my friends are clinical psychologists and hence understand the care they need to take in posting the photos.

  21. “If you don’t want these parts of your profile to be made public, your only option is to delete them.”

    Or in my case, Facebook did it for me–wiping my profile clean of anything other than my name and DOB.

  22. I thought that FB was useful when it was still a college thing. It was an easy way to get to know classmates and stay in touch after a class ended…which can all be difficult at a huge big ten university. I didn’t feel weird sharing with people that I was likely to run into around campus anyways. Of course people still had to be careful, but an online community that is based on an actual real life community is a different animal if you ask me. As soon as FB went full on public it became an annoyance more than anything…Sometimes I feel like Stan in the FB episode of South Park…

    I keep a simple profile that I rarely log into just so people can’t hassle me about not having one.

  23. Check out my friend David Ippolito’s funny and pithy new Facebook Song just posted on YouTube


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