on the internet, nobody knows that you’re a dog

I mentioned this on Twitter, but as Twitter has grown and grown (congrats, Biz and Ev!) it's become very "in the moment" and not the best place to put very important things like this:

There's a page on Facebook that appears to be mine. The problem with this is that I don't use Facebook, and I don't want people to be mislead. (Ohh! Bold text! Wil must be serious!) 

This is not me. A casual observer could see this page and think it's legit, because there isn't anything on it that clearly identifies it as a fan page, or a parody page, or something like that. For all I know, it's well-intentioned and I'm overreacting, but I just can't take a chance with things like this. At the moment, it appears to be asking for donations to fight Alzheimer's, which is a noble cause, but if I stood back and let anyone claim to be me while asking for money – for anything – it could have really, really bad consequences. 

There is a fanpage, but I don't recall what the address is. I don't have anything to do with it, because I don't use Facebook at all, and I trust the former soapboxers who have taken care of it since it was created to maintain it.

I'm fairly sure that this fake page will be removed or at least forced to clarify that it isn't actually me (if the picture – which I think is pretty funny, by the way – didn't give it away) before too long, and I hate having to be a dick about stuff like this, but it's important to me that my identity (actual and professional) is protected.

Now, as long as I have your attention and I'm talking about Facebook: I think that Facebook is evil, guys. I believe that Facebook is making gazillions of dollars by exploiting its users, and Facebook doesn't give a shit about how its users feel about that. The only reason Facebook has made any changes to their laughable privacy policies recently is because the company was looking at legal action, and was in danger of losing money.

If you're a Facebook user, you should really understand exactly how much of your personal information you're giving up to play those games, and you should know exactly what those developers are doing with it. You should understand that Facebook, as a corporation, doesn't give a shit about your privacy, no matter what their press releases say.

EFF has some important and useful things about all social networks that you should read if you use any of them, but if you're a Facebook user, you should really read How to Get More Privacy From Facebook's New Privacy Controls.

Personally, I think you should delete your Facebook account and wait for Disapora to get going. I know that's unlikely, though, because Facebook has become a useful and convenient way to stay in touch with people you care about. But please, please consider the consequences of trading privacy for convenience, and think about this, from Newsweek:

If you really expect this company to suddenly become trustworthy, you’ve lost your mind. Over the past five years Facebook has repeatedly changed its privacy policy, always in one direction, and every time this happens, the same movie plays out. People complain. Facebook stonewalls, then spins, then pretends to be contrite, then finally walks things back—but only a little.

Whether you use Facebook or not isn't really my business, and I'm not getting all Dad Voice on you if you choose to use it, but I'm alarmed that Facebook is training an entire generation that personal privacy isn't as important as it truly is. If you use Facebook, please protect yourself, and remember that, on the Internet, nobody knows that you're a dog.

136 thoughts on “on the internet, nobody knows that you’re a dog”

  1. Brittany…. I’m not jumping on you with this reply, it’s just the latest in the long list of posts about how privacy is shifting… and you are right.
    The problem at hand with Facebook is that they keep shifting what private is. Not by giving you even an opt out, but by just making whatever change they want to and then asking forgiveness later. If the site was set up so that anything you put on your page was public that would be one thing… but that’s not what has been happening. They set it up to allow some things to be shielded from the world at large and even from some of your ‘friends’ and then pulled the rug out… not once but time and time again.
    I get that in a more connected world the expectation of privacy is fleeting. That’s why those things that are private need to stay that way and so far that’s not something that Facebook seems to understand.

  2. If only everyone in the universe that I need to keep in contact with didn’t use and prefer Facebook as the platform to do that. Sigh…

  3. “so that people I know can find me.”
    Know also, people who you don’t know and/or don’t want to know can find you too.
    Forever.

  4. Was not quite sure how to send this to you so thought I’d just comment on your latest post. You might want to poke your head at the June 10 issue of Rolling Stone. In the Season Highs and Lows article on page 46 under Best Moments: Will Wheaton on ‘Big Bang Theory’ “WHEEEATOON!” This is what we’ve come to: Star Trek’s Will Wheaton playing the villain on America’s favorite sitcom. “He tasks me and I shall have him,” indeed.
    Enjoy,
    -Bryan

  5. The posters arguing that any information you put on the internet you should expect to be public are missing the point. Facebook implies the information you are adding to certain sections of your site are private. This creates an expectation of privacy, and causes people to post things they otherwise wouldn’t. Facebook keeps changing their policies to make that information public, without informing their users first.
    This causes information intended to be private to become public. That is the issue with Facebook. They promise privacy and control over publicly viewable content, but deliver the opposite.
    It’s really all the misleading wording and sudden changing of the rules that has privacy advocates up in arms, because, traditionally, the areas of life offline that are considered private and public have been pretty well defined. It’s the lack of a clearly defined expectation of privacy online that has people scared in this instance.

  6. I missed this post yesterday so I am a bit late to the party. I’m the one who contacted you about a Facebook Fan Page a while back. I created it in response to the page you linked to which is clearly Spam. Nathan Fillion has one too, looks to be by the same person.
    I’ve thought about deleting the page time and again because people assume that it is YOU behind the page, regardless of what I post that says otherwise.
    I have also been thinking of leaving FB but it making keeping in contact with people so easy, though I eagerly await to see what fruit Diaspora yields. (There is an RPG by the same name, btw, Diaspora. It uses the Fate system.)
    Looking forward to seeing you in MPLS for W00tstock next week.

  7. Yeah. I started that page as a response to the Spam one Wil posted about. No matter what I say people think I’m Wil. Flattering, but frustrating as I don’t want to ever come off as deceiving people.

  8. I use Facebook because my closest friends and family use it, and I wouldn’t otherwise have a way to keep in touch with them.
    I am, however, more and more careful about what I post there.
    People are going to use it; there’s no way around that. For now, at least. So the best thing to do is try to make sure your friends and family are using it safely.
    Abstinence Only doesn’t work for sex, and it doesn’t work for Facebook.

  9. Thanks for the link about the privacy. I had already done a lot of that, but there were some things on there that I hadn’t accomplished. I do use facebook *ducks flying fruit* but only to keep up with my friends who A) don’t have cell phones (that are on or working) and B) don’t use twitter.

  10. When Diaspora* arrives and if it lives up to the hype, I will gradually shift from Facebook to Diaspora* and perhaps eventually delete my facebook account. Until then, I’ll keep my Facebook account.

  11. Sorry. You’re right. This topic kinda makes me feel a little dickish.
    I suppose, what it is, is that I don’t like that particular argument.
    Honestly, if people want to meet on FB, okay I guess I can see how convenient it is, but when people suggest that now that they’re there they can’t leave, it bothers me.
    I mean, people can leave. There’s nothing perfectly like FB, but there are other strong options that should do the job.
    It just seems like an excuse, that they’re willing to give their privacy away because they simply don’t want to go through the trouble of leaving.
    And I just think privacy should be more important than that, so it makes me a little dickish.

  12. I understand. It’s all cool.
    I understand that Facebook isn’t unique; it’s just that everybody else is using it. But like I said, I’ll have to give Diaspora* a chance once it comes out, and if I like it, I’ll spread the word and maybe eventually leave Facebook.

  13. Exactly.
    The only people I don’t keep in contact with, in some form, are the people who friended me because of high school. I can’t remember talking to them when we spent 5 years together never mind on FB.
    I quite happy sticking to Twitter and LJ for my online contact. :D

  14. For those so inclined, here’s what I just did: I scrolled down to the bottom of that Facebook profile, clicked Report Page, and inserted the URL of this blog post in the area where they wanted the URL of the profile which was being impersonated (which clearly doesn’t apply here). If others do the same, it might improve the odds of the profile getting whacked. And if it works here, it sounds like Nathan Fillion could benefit from the same advice.

  15. You make me not want to have Facebook anymore…but sadly my online obsession of staying social with people I no longer talk to in real life anymore keeps me hooked. Let’s be honest, if you got a Facebook I would add you in a second. However, and this may be a lame question so forgive me, but what are your views on the beloved (yet dated and nostalgic) MySpace?

  16. I tried! I started a discussion with the guy on that “not Wil Wheaton” FB page, as soon as I saw it:
    http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#!/topic.php?uid=346898470248&topic=14169
    I think the guy was genuinely trying to just start a Fan Page, but didn’t do the smart thing and name it “Wil Wheaton Fan Page”, and says that now it’s set up, FB won’t let him change it. ::sigh:: Mostly, he just posts links to your blog posts, etc. He still hasn’t taken my advice to put up a user pic that *says* “Fan Page”.
    I hope you can get this straightened out !

  17. Thanks for the link. Unfortunately, being a licensed professional, if you “know” me, you can find ALL you ever wanted to know on the interwebz… no matter what I have my “security” settings on with FB/Twitter/MySpace/SL..or any other “dashboard” for that matter.
    Like my Daddy always said, “locks are for honest people.” I say the same goes for “security” settings. Srrsly.

  18. I was surprised when I read you’d responded so quickly Wil, but I’m glad you got the note. I told my mom about it and she said she’d be pissed too.
    I’m using the page primarily to update my family on the status of my kids since they live far away (3 and a half day drive) and they never get to see them otherwise. I’m not posting potentially incriminating information about myself or details about the kids lives; family can use the phone for that. But they enjoy the photos (which I pray are safe on this stupid thing), because it beats having to send 40 photos a month out to about 60 people and hope they all get them.
    I know Father’s day is coming up (at least it is where I am, don’t know about the States) so I hope you have a good one and take care with those kids.

  19. Wil,
    I am not sure if you have seen this website. You may want to take a look at it. Its another fan page. I found this before your blog thinking at first that you had a facebook page, but then I found out you had a blog that you take care of yourself. *Sweet* http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/Wil-Wheaton/346898470248
    I didn’t like facebook at all at first because I was use to myspace and now that has changed. I just use extreme caution on what info you put on there because the net is never truely private even when supposedly protected under policies. This is also true for emails or messaging other people, that could be monitored and potentially used without you knowing it. Even when you delete something that you don’t want on there, its still there on the page for quite some time and people can still view it. Hell, I don’t even use my full first name like on here, my name isn’t really Court.
    I am working on the fanfic btw.

  20. I love that on your ‘fan page’ you can’t seem to spell things properly like oh, “rember”… and yet here, you’re pretty darn coherent!
    ~ Hanna

  21. I love that on your ‘fan page’ you can’t seem to spell things properly like oh, “rember”… and yet here, you’re pretty darn coherent!
    ~ Hanna

  22. Thanks for this link!
    I’ve tried to be reasonably careful about my internet privacy and was pleased to see that my efforts have apparently paid off.
    I didn’t find anything on there that I hadn’t deliberately made public.

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