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Why I'm Quitting Instagram (bits.blogs.nytimes.com)
58 points by iProject 1784 days ago | hide | past | web | 35 comments | favorite

Interesting - I recently just disabled/deleted most of my public online presence as well for much the same reason. Privacy was a concern, but really it came down to the net benefit of having these accounts in my life.

Facebook added nothing to my life - indeed it actually harmed some relationships since I figured people didn't need to communicate directly with me if they could follow my public feed.

Twitter became a vector for me to bitch about the world to no one in particular. Try as I might, I usually ended up sending out a stream of negativity which the world certainly does not need more of and it does nothing good for me personally.

I'm considering ditching LinkedIn, but that seems to be taboo - HR drones seem to expect a LinkedIn profile and get suspicious if there isn't one (this isn't a good trend IMO).

Since terminating many of the "social" media services in my life, I've felt better about how I present myself to the world. I no longer fret about that last tweet I sent out, or feel a need to check on my "feeds". That said, it does leave me looking at my smart phone and wondering what the hell to do with it.

"HR drones seem to expect a LinkedIn profile and get suspicious if there isn't one"

a) this isn't true. b) The whole HR drones thing is pretty lame. "Hey I assume I'm way smarter than everyone in this field because I said so".

I don't think he was implying that everyone with an HR is a drone. I believe he was referring to the HR industry's less inspired members.

This is one of the many reasons I'm glad I live in the EU. We're not perfect, but we take the privacy of personal data much more seriously than the rest of the world seems to.

let me get this straight - he starts two services that collect social information for sale to 3rd parties (advertisers until they fail, then whoever will buy) - hits a jackpot - and THEN suddenly is altruistic.

is that right?

Hey, Ryan (author of the piece) here. You are clearly making a lot of assumptions about me and my work!

Nothing I've built or worked on (gdgt, Engadget, etc.) has ever collected or used user data or social information in any untoward way. You'd be right to assume there have been opportunities to do so, but that's simply not the kind of business I'm interested in being in.

Surely you have something more interesting to talk about than this ad hom attack.

What motivates this sort of attack, anyway? Jealousy? A sense of justice?

This is not an ad hominem attack. The author's background is closely related to the subject matter. The fact that he once owned and operated companies that were (possibly?) engaged in much of the same practices brings about relevant questions about the consistency of his views. Was he always of the same mind, but operating in contradiction with his ethical viewpoints in order to make money, or was there some turning point? What motivated that change of viewpoint?

These are relevant questions.

You seem to be better informed about my businesses than I am. Would you care to show me where, during my career, I've EVER engaged in profiting from the sale of user data and social information?

You sound like you know what you're talking about, but everything you just said is based on a presupposed conclusion, hedged by the word "arguably".

I'm back at my desk, so I wanted to write a little more about where I'm coming from.

In an attempt to get off on the right foot, I do not think that you have, or ever had, the same product as Facebook. Facebook's product is a straight social media business. However, if advertising was your primary source of income, you were in the same business: selling advertising. I will also grant that because of their product model, there is an implicit level of trust that is easily violated. This implicit trust is not as big of an issue for content companies, because the reader isn't trusting you with the gory details of their life on a day-to-day basis.

I learned enough in my time as a direct marketer to know that advertisers don't buy advertising on impulse. They buy it based on some criteria. That criteria can be really simple, like vertical alignment, or it can be more subtle. Vertical alignment is simple: E.g., I'm selling phones, so I want to advertise on a gadget website. Easy, but you can't build a business on easy alone.

A more subtle case is when an advertiser wants to target a demographic. Anyone with advertising inventory must go through some effort to identify who their inventory is comprised of. You're selling views, but views by whom? That is the question that advertisers must answer before they can buy, except in simplistic cases mentioned above.

This means that anyone in the business of advertising must have some means of identifying their readership. This is the same kind of private information that people fear Facebook is building and leveraging. The more targeted this information, the higher the premium one can charge to advertisers. The difference is that Facebook's product is a funnel for the information that drives their business.

As usual, matters are not black & white, but business like the ones you founded are on the same spectrum as companies like Facebook. I know that can be hard to see from the inside. You're looking around you, and you're feeling out the context. You're probably thinking, there's no way my business is in any way similar to what Facebook is doing. From a product perspective, I'd agree, but from a business perspective, it's not all that dissimilar.

EDIT: My post didn't even touch on the topic of list sharing and marketing "partners", because I don't want to be accusatory. I have no idea if you ever engaged in those practices, and they're becoming less common, so I'll give you the benefit of the doubt.

I worked in direct marketing for three years. Our two most common sources of customer data were credit card companies and subscription media.

I don't mean to levy an accusation here. It's just worth pointing out that using subscriber/visitor data as a profit center isn't uncommon. If you didn't engage in that practice, then I'll take you at your word. I'm sorry that my original language was accusatory. I didn't intend it that way.

did you ever embed Google analytics or adsense, etc into your webpages?

They collect and market user information in an almost identical way to Facebook.

(in aggregate via statistical models + advertising to identified segments)

You may feel there is some kind of moral difference between the two, but in terms of information gathered and analyzed, there really is not.

bradley did not use the word "arguably" as far as I can see.

He went back and edited his post.

I did so to be more fair. It is common practice for media companies to profit from user data (through "marketing" partnerships), but after reading my post "arguably" was too explicit. You should have the opportunity to define the terms of the discussion, seeing that it's about you.

He meant "(possibly?)"

I'm not attacking him, I'm making an observation. I find it hard to believe that he suddenly realized this month that social networks are all about collecting and selling personal information.

He never made that claim at any point in the article...

I wrote similar thoughts a couple weeks ago: http://bckmn.com/pay-for-your-life-online/

I think the biggest catharsis that needs to happen this coming year is for people to realize how free services actually work.

Can you recommend a book that discusses how free services actually work?

Am I the only one who is gaining more value from Facebook than ever before? Yeah in college it was fun to look at profiles from people you met in class or at parties, and if you weren't part of Facebook you didn't know of the big events or parties unless someone told you.. but that is nothing compared to now. Now I can easily follow updates from my favorite artists, friends who are visiting NYC and want to meet up, and see branded/tech-related stuff I subscribe to all in a compact and useful News Feed algorithm.

Putting privacy concerns aside, which don't affect me personally, Facebook is a utility that is providing more value to me now than it did in college.

>Putting privacy concerns aside, which don't affect me personally

I beg to differ.

I knew someone was going to point this out. Yes, technically they do affect me but most likely they will have little to no affect on my day-to-day life. There are many negative consequences to the privacy problems that do exist, so I'm more concerned about privacy at large and relevant legislation than my own personal privacy on a day-to-day basis.

So, let's say you do "delete" your account. Wouldn't your information still be there to be sold? Does any TOS actually say deleting your account deletes all data from that account?

At the very least, deleting your account means they won't be getting any extra information. Also, it's much harder for people to link you in bad photos and events, and you won't show up in searches, etc.

Just because they have some of your information is no reason to let them get anymore. You gave Facebook your personal information? Fine, you fucked up, live and learn - but have the sense to delete your account now and stop giving them more. They're only getting better at collecting and using private data.

Most people try to counter this by deleting all photos and comments, but still, if what you're suggesting is the reality, then it's only a half-measure.

Does doing that actually work? Sites have backups which I presume would get sold along with the company. I am just not sure if any service (other than maybe the Well) actually deletes stuff when you say to delete it. The TOS for every site can be modified at will, so I wonder if any service guarantees removal.

It certainly doesn't for Facebook. "Deleted" photos remain live for years, probably forever. I imagine that Instragram does the same.

Can you be held to a TOS that changes after you've deleted your account and stopped visiting a site? Just curious.

I deleted my one photo a while back, and the photo count still says "1". Sometimes, it's better to threaten to stay and delete your data than to leave and disable your account.

This is irrelevant. His two options are: "delete account, some data may still be there", or "don't delete account, all data is still there and more is added".

Is there the option to continue adding data, but make sure the new data are bogus? Poison the well, so to speak. Change personal data, etc. Alter metadata in photos.

Do this for a bit, then close the account.

Early adopter stops using service as service becomes mainstream.

Very practical reason to quit using multiple online services. Once personal data leaves your computer there is no guarantee what form it will take.

Check our personal cloud service Tonido (www.tonido.com). You will like it and no question of data ownership ever.

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