I found this blog post this morning via one of my favorite blogs, Making Light. In brief, speculative fiction author China Miéville doesn’t have a Facebook page, but you wouldn’t know it from checking Facebook: there are at least two, possibly more, fake profiles claiming to be him, which people are friending. Miéville has tried contacting Facebook a number of times to get them removed — which is apparently nearly impossible if you don’t have a Facebook account, and he doesn’t want one — but the pages are still there.
This would be one thing if it were something like a fake Twitter account (of which there are plenty), but with all the recent Facebook privacy scandals demonstrating just how much of your personal information you share with people you friend, this is downright scary. And the fact that Facebook doesn’t seem to be doing anything to stop it is even worse.
Now, I don’t have a Facebook account. I did at one point; I signed up when it was first opened to all college students. I never really got into it; I preferred online services that offered richer communication. (No, I will not link to them or even say which ones they are. I have been online in some form or another since 1997, and until the past couple of years I was not thinking about how any of this would look in my professional career, so I am doing my best to keep my online identities segregated.) I deleted my Facebook account last year, through the overly-complicated full delete process rather than the misleading “close account” process which really only closes your account until you log in again, after the third or fourth major Facebook privacy scandal.
As a librarian, I feel obliged to protest Facebook’s extremely low privacy standards and do my best to educate others about them as well. I know that lots of libraries do some outreach and advertising through Facebook, and while I understand it, I can’t support it. Librarians are hugely concerned about privacy, but we jump through all these hoops to keep peoples’ library records private while the information we have about people is negligible compared to what Facebook is releasing all the time. (Most recently, they’re failing to do anything about FarmVille sharing private, personally identifiable information.) I don’t really believe that people don’t care about privacy any more, I think this is just another instance of technology moving faster than human culture can keep up. Unfortunately, if we don’t keep an eye on it, technology might take the choice out of our hands before we can do anything about it.