I was reading some TNW articles in my feed reader when I stumbled on the account of how Chris Leydon had his Facebook account closed without any explanation or recourse.
I’ve told many people over the years that I don’t trust Microsoft, Google or lately Facebook. I’ve often been told that I’m overreacting or that I’m paranoid. You know the old saying though, “You’re not paranoid, if everyone is really out to get you.” Now, I’m not saying that Microsoft, Google or Facebook is out to get you or me specifically. What I haven’t trusted over the years is their market dominance, their motivations and my place in relation to those.
Let’s face it. Microsoft held a near monopoly in terms of their OS and it felt like they could do pretty much whatever they wanted without fear of any real repercussions.
Google on the other hand has a business built upon your data and selling that to advertisers. On top of that, they’re kind of a closed box. You don’t really know why certain content is surfaced and why certain sites are ranked higher than others, yet that difference can make or break a business. Likewise, if you participate in their AdSense program you don’t have any real visibility into how much you should get from them and they can close your account at any time. If you do a search on “Closed AdSense Account” you’ll find many, many results. Often the accounts are closed right before a payment needs to be made. No warning, no way to fix it, nothing. If you’re accused of being in violation of their TOS you are toast. Forget about appealing. Google is a company of algorithms, not people. That’s pretty much why I don’t use AdSense or any similar programs to monetize my sites. I know many people use those products without problems, but I don’t like the feeling of being at another company’s mercy with no way to appeal to an impartial 3rd party.
Getting back to Chris Leydon’s story, I was struck by how completely Facebook has invaded many people’s lives. I share very little on Facebook and use it for almost nothing. I may be one of their billion plus user, but just barely. Chris like many other people used it for everything. He used it to login to many sites, he stored photos on it, he synced it with his contacts, he used it for groups, for events and to chronicle his life. Painful. That’s really all I can say. Like I said, I use Facebook for very little. It’s mainly something I have because you need to have it in case someone tries to get in touch with you that way. That’s it. With their stranglehold on Social, they just feel a little too powerful to care what I think of the way they treat me and I don’t like that.
I might sound like someone who would advocate that everybody leave Facebook and I guess I would not so secretly love that, but I’m a realist. Everyone uses Facebook, so I understand the feeling that you need to be on it. I have a Facebook account myself, after all. You have to watch how you use it though. It shouldn’t be the only place you keep anything. There is no place that should be the only place you keep anything. You should have a copy of all your data at home, you should have a physical backup of that data somewhere and you should probably back it up in the cloud. Trusting everything to Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple or even DropBox (which I love), is just crazy. Chris’s story highlights that. It also justifies my distrust of using Facebook or even Twitter as my login for another service. If a service is important to me, I need to be able to log into it directly, not through another service that could prevent me from logging into the site in the future.
What should you do? Don’t be paranoid. Use technology. Embrace technology. Just think about how you use technology and protect yourself from blindly trusting companies. They have their best interests at heart. While people say that companies won’t be successful if they keep screwing their customers, that isn’t very comforting when they screw you. Just ask Chris Leydon.