A fundamental reason why I refuse to get Facebook

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.

You won't find me on Facebook

Image credit: FSF

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:

  1. You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.
  2. You will not create more than one personal account.
  3. If we disable your account, you will not create another one without our permission.
  4. You will not use your personal timeline primarily for your own commercial gain, and will use a Facebook Page for such purposes.
  5. You will not use Facebook if you are under 13.
  6. You will not use Facebook if you are a convicted sex offender.
  7. You will keep your contact information accurate and up-to-date.
  8. 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.
  9. You will not transfer your account (including any Page or application you administer) to anyone without first getting our written permission.
  10. 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.

Blue house

Facebook is a house: its owners are the staff, its rules are the Terms of Service, and its guests are the users. (Image credit: Jaggery. CC-BY-SA)

“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.

  1. The thing is, you are not a guest of Facebook and are not treated like one. They do not respect your privacy. Your personal information is their product. They sell or trade or give it to other businesses. They were actually penalized by the FTC in 2011 for privacy violations. So I’m not on Facebook either. But for different reasons.

    • Oh, certainly. I’m with the FSF on that stance and I’m not on Facebook for those reasons as well (they’re part of the “number of reasons” I mentioned).

      It reminds me of this image inspired by a Geek and Poke comic:

      FACEBOOK AND YOU: If you're not paying for it, you're not the customer. You're the product being sold.

      What prompted this post is that a friend wanted me to get a Facebook account so that I could join a group chat. If you assume that I can avoid privacy concerns by creating a fake account and using Tor and whatever else, the fundamental reason that I present in the post still remains.

  2. Good for you. I had an account at one time … about 2012 … I think. I regret ever being part of it.
    I agree with most of your reasoning.

    (deleted much longer comment on second thought)

    PS: You said “I abide by the Golden Rule”
    Good for you.

    • Thanks, and thanks for the reblog. I do remember you briefly mentioning your Facebook troubles a couple of years ago, and it sounds like you’ve been better off without it. As I had mentioned in the post, you have no obligation to be a part of it, and if you’re better off without it, then you probably shouldn’t be a part of it.

  3. Reblogged this on Denny Sinnoh and commented:
    I am proud to Re-Blog this post from my friend and fellow Hanako Oku fan tPenguinLTG.

    I do not use Facebook myself, although for different reasons than Mr.Penguin.

  4. A1 said:

    oH Cmon it’s the friggin internet… fake names is the norm, and if a platform DEMANDS your real name or nothing, then that’s their problem and they can kiss my A.

    • The Internet is a community, and just like any other community, it’s up to its individuals to make it thrive. Some ways it does that is with cooperation and respect. You are, of course, entitled to your opinion and you’re free to do what you like, but in the same manner, so am I.

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