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  • This screen (minus the red circle and login info) was presented to me when I went to facebook.com recently. When I tried to log in, a pop-up blocked my way that said:


    Confirm Your Identity
    To log into your Facebook account
    you need to first confirm your identity.


    Facebook had logged me out and, like a cop pulling me over, was asking for my license. In order to convince them, I need to supply a copy of a photo ID in my Facebook name. The company insists that all users must have "authentic names," and they get to decide what that means.

    When I joined Facebook about eight years ago at the request of an ex-colleague who had a serious presence there, I wavered. I did not trust what they would do with my name, date of birth, schools and other facets of my identity. So I used the name of an alter ego that I invented and sometimes go by, and altered the month of my birthday as well just to see whether that bit of info might somehow get spread around. Some folks here know my FB screen name, but please let it be our little secret.

    I never took Facebook to heart and did not visit very often. I kept a low profile and hardly posted more than once a week, generally to publicize public interest issues and petitions. Mostly I associated with cowbirders and my relatives there. Everyone I befriended knew who I was, but FB didn't, and when some user (anonymously!) tipped FB off that I might be cloaking my identity, they got nasty. At least I think that's what happened.

    How nasty? My wife is my alter ego's FB friend and every single like and comment I posted on her page has vanished. Her list of friends no longer includes my persona. You will not find me there. Totally scrubbed.

    Three months ago, FB boasted that it had 1.44 billion active users. Many more are registered, of course—they just did not sign on that month. All sorts of users have "inauthentic" names: people going by nicknames or married names; Women trying to avoid stalkers and abusive mates; Entertainers using stage names; Political dissidents from all over who fear persecution or worse if their posts are linked to them; and of course myriads of scam artists.

    The computer security company McAfee estimates that 15 million FB accounts do not represent real people (see their infographic). Scammers create some of them to friend actual users, and once that happens, they scoop up profile data and use it to compose phishing messages that victims might think come from someone they know. It is said that FB is in the process of purging such knaves, but it is a fruitless game of whack-a-mole, and it is taking its toll on those who really need confidentiality and people like me who just want to play and not be data-mined.

    Fine. I have learned my lesson and am out of there with no regrets, just a surge of indignation. Who needs this shit?

    If you want to be friends, you know where to find me. Intermediaries need not apply.
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