Monday is Quit Facebook Day when a number of users around the globe plan to delete their Facebook profiles in protest over recent privacy issues< on the world’s largest social network. At the time of this writing a little more than 26,000 people had committed to delete their accounts, according to the Quit Facebook Day Website. While Quit Facebook Day may be a bit of bad PR for the social network, the reality is those intending to leave Facebook on Monday make up just 0.005 percent of Facebook’s 500 million users.
Of course, that’s not entirely fair since most protests movements are made up of a small, but vocal number of people. Matthew Milan, one of the Quit Facebook Day site founders, recently admitted as much on his twitter feed. “I personally never expected high numbers [for Quit Facebook Day]” Milan tweeted. “But something doesn’t have to be viral to be successful.”
Quit Facebook Day was launched after recent criticisms over how Facebook handles user privacy. But Milan and fellow QFD founder Joseph Dee see a much larger problem with Facebook than its most recent privacy issues. Privacy is “just the symptom of a larger set of issues,” the pair’s Quit Facebook Day site reads. Milan and Dee contend that Facebook’s policies demonstrate a lack of respect in how the site treats user data, and that Facebook puts an unfair burden on the user by making privacy settings overly complex.
“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,” according to QuitFacebookDay.com. “We just can’t see Facebook’s current direction being aligned with any positive future for the web, so we’re leaving.”
On Wednesday, Facebook answered some of the criticisms against it by announcing changes to its privacy settings making it simpler for users to control their privacy. Facebook focused on three major privacy changes: consolidating privacy controls onto one page; the ability to block others from seeing your profile; and the ability to opt-out of using Facebook Platform which delivers games, quizzes and other activities to Facebook users.
However, Facebook’s new privacy settings are getting mixed reviews. Civil liberties advocacy group the Electronic Frontier Foundation says Facebook’s recent changes are a “positive step, but there’s still more work to be done.” The American Civil Liberties Union was similarly tepid in its response to Facebook’s changes saying, “Although there are further changes [Facebook] users want and need, today’s changes are a significant and promising step in the right direction.”
Contributing PCWorld Editor, Harry McCracken said, after playing around with Facebook’s new privacy controls, that, “Managing your Facebook privacy is still a remarkably convoluted process which isn’t explained clearly enough.”
Facebook Users Stay, Trust Less
But while critics believe Facebook still needs to improve its privacy controls, the majority of Facebook users appear to be somewhat satisfied with the social network’s recent changes, according to a recent survey by research firm Vision Critical. The survey looked at 699 American adults with an active Facebook account, and found that only 11 percent of those surveyed had heard of the Quit Facebook Day campaign. And only 22 percent of those who had heard of the campaign (roughly 17 people out of 699) intended to quit. Interestingly, however, Vision Critical discovered that 81 percent of survey respondents say they are being more careful about how they use Facebook, and 76 percent are sharing less personal information than they used to on the social network.
So while Facebook may not lose a large number of users due to the company’s recent privacy flap, Facebook may have a long way to go before its users put their trust back in the company.
Are you leaving Facebook today? Why or why not?
Connect with Ian on Twitter (@ianpaul).