I don’t have a Facebook account, and as much as people try to convince me to get one, I invariably refuse for a number of reasons. Among those reasons, there is one that stands out. Yes, privacy is a concern, but this reason is even deeper, more fundamental, than that.
I always say that getting a Facebook account would compromise my principles, but nobody asks how. Let’s start with a superficial reason for not getting an account: I don’t want to provide my real personal info. This, of course, stems from the privacy concern mentioned earlier. “Alright,” you might say, “but lots of people create accounts with fake names. What’s the issue?”
Everyone doing something doesn’t make it right. Everyone lies, but lying isn’t right.
If you actually take the time to read Facebook’s Terms of Service, you will encounter Section 4:
4. Registration and Account Security
Facebook users provide their real names and information, and we need your help to keep it that way. Here are some commitments you make to us relating to registering and maintaining the security of your account:
- You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.
- You will not create more than one personal account.
- If we disable your account, you will not create another one without our permission.
- You will not use your personal timeline primarily for your own commercial gain, and will use a Facebook Page for such purposes.
- You will not use Facebook if you are under 13.
- You will not use Facebook if you are a convicted sex offender.
- You will keep your contact information accurate and up-to-date.
- You will not share your password (or in the case of developers, your secret key), let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account.
- You will not transfer your account (including any Page or application you administer) to anyone without first getting our written permission.
- If you select a username or similar identifier for your account or Page, we reserve the right to remove or reclaim it if we believe it is appropriate (such as when a trademark owner complains about a username that does not closely relate to a user’s actual name).
I want to draw your attention specifically to the introductory paragraph and list item 1. It clearly states that a Facebook user agrees to “provide real names and information” and “will not provide any false personal information”. This means I can’t use a pseudonym like tPenguinLTG. Now, I’m sure there are valid reasons for wanting this (safety is one that comes to mind), but this doesn’t change the fact that I don’t want to release my real personal info.
“Alright,” you might say, “but nobody reads the Terms of Service. As long as you aren’t doing anything bad, you should be fine, even if you use a fake name.” When you invite guests over to your house, you have a set of rules that you expect your guests to follow. How would you like it if one of your guests broke your rules? You’d probably want to kick them out, right? If you abide by the Golden Rule as I do, since you wouldn’t want one of your guests to break your rules, neither should you at someone else’s house.
Now, think of Facebook as a house: its owners are the staff, its rules are the Terms of Service, and its guests are the users. If I were to sign up for Facebook with a fake name, I’d be violating their terms of service, or in other words, breaking their rules. As I abide by the Golden Rule, doing this would be hypocritical because if I were set up a service, I wouldn’t want my users to break my terms.
“Screw Facebook, they deserve it.” Now ask yourself, do they really? It’s their house, so they’re free to make their own rules as long as they’re within the law. It’s your responsibility to follow their rules. If you don’t agree to follow a house owner’s rules, you have the right not to enter their house. Similarly, if you don’t agree to follow the Terms of Service, you have the right to not use the service. Using the service without agreeing to follow the Terms is dishonest: you say you agree but you actually don’t.
“You can do what you want and nobody will care.” I care. As well, I am doing what I want. I don’t want to compromise my principle of honesty and be hypocritical of Golden Rule; I can do that by exercising my right to not use Facebook. That is one of the fundamental reasons why I refuse to get a Facebook account.