A Near Death Experience (The Privacy Conundrum)

So this morning I got ANOTHER of those notorious Broadcast Messages, the curse of Indonesian BlackBerry users. Usually I just deleted it instantly without looking, but this one came from my girlfriend, so it may be a baaaaaad idea not to take a peek.

The BM is basically saying that Facebook can access your mobile’s phonebook, and may have published it on your FB page without your knowledge. It was complete with ‘instruction’ on how it remove it from your FB page.

“So what do you think? Is it true?” my girlfriend asked.

“I don’t know. But thank God I already closed my FB account”, I texted back, while I smiled smugl.

No, seriously, I closed my FB account. I used to be a quite active FB user for 4 years, especially in the photos upload department, thinking “MY FRIENDS NEED ME TO ENSURE THEIR EMBARASSING PICTURES ARE PRESERVED.” So when I was closing the account, I thought I was gonna die.

I did not. In fact, I am very much alive today.

Why did I close it? Oh, I don’t know. Sometime early this year I just realized that FB is just too “open”, that my life becomes transparent. Yeah, sure, I know about the (very complex) privacy setting. But really, how many people actually go through the trouble of setting privacy for every individual photo album, or comments, or notes? (I heard Google+ attempts to solve this with “circles” feature.)

I also did not really restrict who added me “as friends” in the past, when suddenly I realized, “hey, who are THESE people?” Coupled that with stories of crime planned on your loved ones (like kidnapping) thanks to FB openess, I decided “that’s it”, let’s go “off grid” for now.

Facebook to me is a privacy conundrum. Or maybe it’s just my generation is thinking differently from the “digital natives”, those who were born into e-mail and social media.

I grew up with books and movies of the paranoia that the government is trying to pry into your private life, without your permission. I remember the classic novel ‘1984’ by George Orwell (written in 1948, about a future world in 1984 – A MUST READ) where the future is (well, 1984 was way behind us now…) pictured as the government having complete access to your very life, down to your thoughts. The book coined the term “thought police”, where people can be arrested for even thinking wrong ideas, and “Big Brother”, the leader who must have your complete obedience and trust, and who can “see” you, anytime, anywhere (hence the reality show Big Brother!)

The book was obviously a premonition to the Communist system, especially communist Soviet Union, where nobody trusts anyone, and government spies were everywhere. But it is also a warning about the danger of losing one’s privacy.

If you think a 1948 book was too old a reference, I can assure you the fear remains. Flash forward to year 1998, the movie Enemy Of The State (Will Smith & Gene Hackman, directed by Tony Scott) resonated with the old fear of Big Brother. It’s a GREAT movie by the way, a must watch. The movie shows how Will Smith was framed in national level conspiracy, and how his every move could be monitored by the government, through mobile phone, credit card, and satellites. Gene Hackman played the character of an ex-agent who decided to go “off-grid”, basically a life without electronic trace whatsoever so he can “disappear” from government’s watch.

Again, the fear of privacy loss was there.

Now here we are in 2011, and I wonder whether the same fear is still there. Or whether it is only relegated to those born before 1990s.

The amount of information people put about themselves on Facebook can be….jaw-dropping. People have fight with their partners online. Or they upload incriminating photos (like wild drunk party pictures and stuff). They put photos of their children, telling what school they are going (really tempting for kidnappers). People update their status about their stupid clients in meeting (while the very same client is also their ‘FB friend’.)

I once read that social interaction also resembles ‘transaction’, unconsciously. Meaning, the more people are trusting, the more we also become (sort of tit-for-tat programming of the brain). So as more people are becoming transparent on social media, it gets more people to reciprocate the gesture.

One problem: evil people are out there. From child predators, scoundrels, extortionist, psychopaths, or just people with “problems”, they are out there also on the internet. And FB provides an easy ground for them to find target.

Maybe it’s just me. Or my generation’s. I don’t know But the idea of “too much transparency” is troubling, and that’s why I decided to kill my FB account. I keep Twitter because it is so simple in feature that one cannot really put too much about one’s life, unless of course if one tweets about his/her personal life too much. I do try to limit my tweets to jokes, discussion on current affairs, and general stuff, not so much about personal details.

So is Facebook a privacy conundrum? Do people still value privacy, but at the same time completely go naked online? Or we just lower our standard of privary further? I don’t have the answer myself. All I know is, forget about the old fear of Big Brother of ‘1984’ book. The people are already exposing themselves on social media! All government needs to do is sign-up with Facebook! No need for tapping telephone lines or expensive surveillance satellites! 😀

Perhaps for many people, the fabric of life is indeed already interwoven with their digital life. To share one’s life (or at least to project one) is becoming as important as one’s obsession to check out others (kepo-ness).

Somehow, I prefer that some aspects of my life still hide in the dark, that a part of me still lies “in the dark side of the moon”. And that’s probably why when I closed my FB account, it was far from a near-death experience. I don’t feel any loss at all, except when my old friends are having difficulty reaching me when they try to hold a reunion.

(and I thought chicks dig mysterious guys? :p)

Categories: Uncategorized


  1. Love this post! And so agree. My guy friend also closed his fb cos no privacy. While me, im that person who’s willing to go thru the very complex privacy setting 🙂 it works sih, just need time for 1st setup and voila no info for strangers n work mates :p

  2. Kemaren baru baca artikel ini “Should Virtual Suicide be Outlawed” http://bigthink.com/ideas/38517 . Jadi ada software untuk virtual suicide yang bakal wipe off semua friend list dan change password si user dan si user ini ga bakal tahu password nya diganti apa. Facebook rencananya mau nuntut perusahaan software ini.

    Kalo dipikir2 ngeri ya, sampe no telp bisa ketauan. Belum lagi dengan facebook place, bisa ketauan kita di mana. Kemaren aja gue kaget orang di luar friend list gue bisa like posting foto gue.

    Dan di artikel ini, disebut kalo visi Facebook: pengen semua orang di muka bumi ini punya facebook, alias jadi database penduduk dunia ini. Dan bisa jadi ini tercapai, misalnya karena faktor peer pressure. Gue inget temen gue ada yang dicupu2in gara2 ga mau punya Facebook. Gue berusaha limit postingan gue ke hal2 yang ga personal, tapi kalo Facebook punya power untuk access data yang ga gue publish (e.g. no telp, location) dan data itu di-hack atau dijual Facebook, ngeri banget. Jadi mikir buat nutup account facebook…

  3. mas piring. satu pertanyaan saya, gimana cara closed accountnya? saya kok udah ubek-ubek cuma ketemu opsi deactivate?
    apakah harus didelete semua data satup-persatu, hapusin semua foto satu persatu gitu?
    share dong mas caranya.

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