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Note to Squidoo: Facebook Is STILL Evil

Dear Squidoo:

No, I will not be taking advantage of this new “opportunity” to label my lenses for Facebook’s Open Graph (and I think you should come out and inform non-savvy users that Open Graph is part of Facebook — there, that’s better). Why?

1. Facebook is evil.

Or, in case you’re laughing at silly old Greekgeek and her quaint Facebook phobia, let’s review:

What the CIA failed to do in 60 years, Zuck has done in 7: knowing what 800 million people–more than 10% of the world’s population–think, read and listen to, plus who they know, what they like and where they live, travel, vote, shop, worship. — Forbes Magazine

Facebook is a big steaming pile of p….rivacy violations, a site designed to collect more and more more personal information from its members to sell to its advertisers. And it started with a Big Lie.

Originally, Facebook enticed users to join with promises of community and sharing their personal lives with their closest friends. Then Facebook turned their private info public and started selling previously-confidential information. Enter the Facebook Privacy Erosion Cycle: privacy protections would come down, savvy users fought back, Facebook promised not to do it ever again, then did it again a few months later, repackaging the launch slightly. Rinse and repeat, until Stockholm Syndrome wore down users’ reservations, and Facebook could get onto the next personal-data-mining push.

“Privacy is dead!” Zuckerberg trumpeted again and again. “This is what YOU want! It’s an OPPORTUNITY!” And then he made another million selling people’s personal info to his advertisers.

Don’t take my word for it. Take Facebook’s word for it. See Facebook’s Changing Privacy Policy Over Time. Or, better, view this fascinating animation of The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook.

Or take Zuckerberg’s word for it. Remember, this is what he said soon after he started the embryonic Facebook:

  • Zuck: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS
  • [Redacted Friend’s Name]: What? How’d you manage that one?
  • Zuck: People just submitted it.
  • Zuck: I don’t know why.
  • Zuck: They “trust me”
  • Zuck: Dumb fucks.


Enter Open Graph. Open Graph is Facebook’s latest attempt to collect, codify, and spy on its users’ web browsing activities. It’s trying to get us to “integrate” our off-Facebook content with Facebook so that it can collect ever more specific information on our readers and visitors’ viewing habits outside of Facebook’s garden wall. It’s doing this because it’s maxed out the amount of content it’s milking from its own users. Now Facebook is asking us to assist it in collecting information about users when they stray from its walled garden.

Again, don’t take my word for it. Here’s a good discussion of Open Graph by TIME’s tech blogger.

So I don’t want to hear about Open Graph integration as an “opportunity.” It’s an “opportunity” for Facebook, not for me, and not for my visitors. It’s an “opportunity” for us only in the sense of this famous cartoon:

The "Free" Model by Geek & Poke


Yes, Google is also guilty of exploiting us as its personal piggybank, but that does not make it better. I have a few bones to pick with Google. However, Google never presented itself as a social community for sharing personal information with your friends, then tried to redefine the meaning of friendship itself in order to collect information for advertisers. That’s bait-and-switch. At least Google was up-front the start that its goal was to collect and index any published information it could find.

Facebook has not earned my trust.  It may claim it’s the web, just as AOL did in the 90s, but it does not deserve to be the web. Therefore, I will not let it gather information on my readers, and I will not assist Facebook in its bid to take over the web. (Update: it may be impossible to stop it, of course, since Facebook tracks and records all web browsing of non-members as well as members, once they’ve visited any Facebook page.)

Oh, and speaking of “opportunity,” I’ve been seeing that word being used in a strange way lately. To quote Inigo, “I do not think that word means what you think it means.” I keep seeing “opportunity” used in the context of someone  trying to exploit my content for their benefit. How very Zuckerbergian!

Think hard before sliding down the slippery slope to Zuckerberg perdition. Remember, there are— or were— alternatives.

Twitter is starting to win the social media war, because it does not go down the Facebook route.

Remember Squidcasts?

With Squidcasts, I was communicating directly with my readers who were interested in the subjects I was writing about.  With Squidcasts, I was able to give them highly-targeted, relevant info specific to their interests without collecting data on them, without forcing them to sign up with a social network. They got the benefit of my content, my tips, my recommendations— for free!— and it kept some of them coming back. They chose whether or not to subscribe to a particular article’s Squidcasts, and they chose how to use the info I gave them, rather than the other way around. My traffic dipped slightly when Squidoo took Squidcasts away. Yes, Squidcasts were a bona-fide “opportunity,” and now they are a missed opportunity…as in, “I miss them.”

Remember Seth Godin’s concept of “permission marketing”? Squidcasts (and Twitter) implemented that concept beautifully. Facebook betrays it.

Meanwhile, lately, I’ve seen other “opportunities” promoted on Squidoo— contests and such— only to find I’m excluded from those “opportunities” because they only exist through Facebook pages where I can’t participate without turning over my personal info to Facebook.   When I signed up with Squidoo, Squidoo was not Facebook, and did not require me to be a member of Facebook to participate in Squidoo.

Don’t go there, please. Don’t relegate me to a second-class citizen because I like Squidoo but not Facebook.  Don’t make Squidoo an appendage of Facebook.

Squidoo is better than that.


  1. AJ says:

    Thank you for posting this Ellen.

    I have never been fast to follow the Facebook trend, specifically for the reasons you outline. It really worries me that people will allow access to their info via these Apps or whatever you call them – its like leaving your front door wide open and saying to people you dont know “Come on in and help yourself to whatever you want.”

  2. Lots of good points here. I originally joined Facebook to watch what my teenage daughter did on the site. Now I use it to publicize my gallery. But I have always been leery of joining apps because they are asking me for too much information.

    While I like the idea that I can follow my distant relatives and friends that I do not see too often to keep up with their doings, I do have a threshold of privacy that I would like to keep to myself.

    I honestly do not yet see how the Open Graph helps drive traffic to my Squidoo articles.

  3. The search engine market is absolutely monopolized by Google. At Squidoo, we believe it’s important to give lensmasters the tools to succeed on other platforms in order to decrease reliance on a single source of traffic.

    The goal of Open Graph tagging is to help Facebook understand the type of content that is being shared. It’s not much different from the way meta and tags are applied for SEO purposes.

    It’s just one tool in the chest. Completely optional. If you prefer not to associate with Facebook, there are no negative consequences.

    1. Greekgeek says:

      All right. But I still get antsy every time I see FB thrust in my face, and I’ll continue to remind HQ that not all of us are going to be on Facebook, each time I get offers on my dashboard telling me about some fabulous new Squidoo project, only to find that I have to go log into Facebook to access its Facebook page. Deal?

      And I needed to say this, to remind people not to get too complacent about Facebook’s data collection. OR Google, which has definitely moved away from its roots as “search engine” to “revenue engine.”

      We keep jumping when they say frog. And sometimes we have to. But sometimes we have a choice, even when we think we don’t.

  4. Lisa Howard says:

    Zuckerbergian? I hope that gets added to the dictionary!

    I’m not in your camp on this one because I like Facebook, flaws and all, but I am glad that you’re spearheading the discussion on the pros and cons. We are all free to choose how to promote our sites and pages, and I like knowing what I’m doing and why.

    When the Open Graph tag first popped up on my dashboard, there was no link explaining what it was, so I ignored it. Then I found the discussion on FB (sorry!), which led me to SquidU and then later to the HQ post. Then it was FB that led me back to this page. See why I like FB? :-)

    I don’t think Squidoo is penalizing anyone for not liking FB. Unless they add the Open Graph tag to the lensrank algorithm or do something else that would actually take away from your own efforts, then they aren’t penalizing you. I think Squidoo is actually very good about giving people options. They didn’t automatically add Open Graph tags, which they could have automated from lens tags. They let people opt out of the magazines that get promoted on FB. They even let people opt out of ads to make money!

    I’m glad everyone has options, and I’m also glad that there are people like you who want everyone to be aware of the possible consequences of any action. From there, it’s up to each person to make their own choice.

  5. MiMi says:

    Absolutely revile FB because of its privacy issues and because they allow children on it. Letting them sign up is easy. All they have to do is lie about their age — a despicable failure at FB to take societal responsibility. However, FB or not, at this point, there is not a single user online that cannot become a victim by some form of privacy invasion. …And after the rant, for Squidoo to look for more avenues of traffic is probably a good thing, especially if they work with more than one Internet site. But I am sorely disappointed in the loss of social at Squidoo. It summarily destroyed the focus on community and creativity.

  6. Mark Upshaw says:

    Pandora’s box has been opened and can not be closed again. To fight against the inevitable is a waste of precious resources: time and talent. Isn’t it better to receive the “mark of the beast” and reap whatever benefits now than to hold out for a “privacy savior” that will never appear.

    1. Greekgeek says:

      No. I still participate in huge online communities where privacy works just fine, and always has. Google’s circles almost manage to copy the functionality of Livejournal, Dreamwidth et alia, whose custom friendslists, groups, and usernames do a more sophisticated yet simple job of managing our friends and filtering our content-sharing than any of the 2.0 social networks have done thus far. Google+ was an incomplete implementation of these basic principles of these older, pre-MySpace social communities, and so Web 1.5 continues to bubble away, invisible to those who have arrived on the scene a little more recently.

      The web also existed before AOL tried to own it. AOL had a good run of trying to own it, and making sure that most people could only access the web via AOL, but it was the wrong paradigm, and it could not hold people inside its walled garden forever. Sooner or later, they would discover the web was more and better than what AOL offered them, and they broke away.

      For a while, Internet Explorer tried to own the web by forcing non-standard codes we all had to use in order for our webpages to be viewable on computers with IE. Every PC was shipped with IE. It was predicted that we had to use IE standards, or we’d lose. But slowly, gradually, Mozilla and Safari and Opera and, yes, Chrome, proved that was not so.

      I refuse to cede the web to its least deserving custodian. It doesn’t work. It hasn’t been around that long. I refuse to believe the web has reached its final form, and we’re stuck with something that doesn’t work for billions of its users.

      After all, Facebook doesn’t even exist in a large part of the world. It’s short-sighted to believe this is the best we’re going to get.

  7. Rhonda says:

    Thanks Ellen. This helps to clarify what it is all about. I was a bit confused when I saw the word “opportunity” on my Squidoo dashboard, but seeked out a bit more info. Glad I found your blog.

  8. ‘Internet Privacy’ seems a good example of an oxymoron… you know expression that use opposite words such as ‘jumbo shrimp’ etc. Can the internet BE private? This applies particularly to FB of course, and yes facebook has exploded in popularity and with that some controversial privacy issues. Still I think twice about what I release anywhere on the internet, assuming that once I do so, then it is no longer private. On one hand we bust our butts for ‘traffic’ and then at the same time want privacy, so how does THAT work? Aren’t these polar opposites? Can we realistically expect both?
    Great discussion, appreciate you all so much.

  9. Mrwrkathm says:

    Hi Greekgeek,

    I completely agree with you and your stance. I have never been comfortable with sites such as FB and others because they ask too many questions. I refuse to give my info. to anyone, including the CIA, NSA, or the New World Order. That’s one reason that I use a pseudonym and a crazy picture instead of my real name and photo – you just don’t know who will do what with them. I have never joined FB, and never will. Simply put, I only trust the web so far and no more. Putting your info out in public makes you vulnerable. I also hate the way that FB is pervading every site on the net! Every site now has an FB button – why? Why log in with FB or Google when I am on a completely different site? Simple – FB wants to know every site you visit in order to get to know what you like and what you do! That’s dangerous!!!

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