Mankind has survived November 5 so far, and there is no reason to believe that we generally will be in danger this year. The opposite may be, in fact, the case. We might be saved in an event that is announced to become part of history (it already has, at least on Wikipedia.)
For those of us who can't recall November 5 events, here is a quick run-through of some noteworthy events over the past 1000 years (courtesy of Wikipedia):
1138 – Ly Anh Tong is enthroned as emperor of Vietnam at the age of two, starting a 37-year reign.
1530 - The St. Felix's Flood destroys the city of Reimerswaal in the Netherlands.
1605 – Gunpowder Plot: A conspiracy led by Robert Catesby to blow up the English Houses of Parliament is thwarted when Sir Thomas Knyvet, a justice of the peace, finds Guy Fawkes in a cellar below the House of Lords.
1688 – The Glorious Revolution begins: William of Orange lands at Brixham.
1757 – Seven Years' War: Frederick the Great defeats the allied armies of France and the Holy Roman Empire at the Battle of Rossbach.
1780 – French-American forces under Colonel LaBalme are defeated by Miami Chief Little Turtle.
1913 – King Otto of Bavaria is deposed by his cousin, Prince Regent Ludwig, who assumes the title Ludwig III.
1917 – October Revolution: In Tallinn, Estonia, Communist leader Jaan Anvelt leads revolutionaries in overthrowing the Provisional Government (As Estonia and Russia are still using the Julian Calendar, subsequent period references show an October 23 date).
1937 – Adolf Hitler holds a secret meeting and states his plans for acquiring "living space" for the German people.
1942 – The Second Battle of El Alamein is won by the British in El Alamein, Egypt.
2011 – Anonymous (group) seeks to destroy Facebook.
You may have just returned from your vacation, but there you have it. Facebook is threatened to be not just taken offline, but to be destroyed. Hacker group Anonymous posted a video on YouTube in which it announces Operation Facebook. There is a persistent rumor that the choice of November 5 has been made due to the 1605 event, which is somewhat strange as the Gunpowder plot actually failed. Anonymous accuses Facebook as having sold information to governments and does not offer a way for its users to keep their information safe or enable users to actually delete data and accounts. The destruction of Facebook is announced as a protective measure for users, as a way to save us from our own stupidity when we post information in status messages, emails, as well as videos and pictures we really should not be posting, especially if they can get us into legal trouble.
A World Without Facebook
I have no idea whether Anonymous will have the tools to "destroy" Facebook. However, while it was successful in hacking websites and it has provided evidence that it can find paths to bring servers down to their knees, an announced attack is a different ball game. Will it be able to take down Facebook when both sides are able to prepare themselves for battle? Does Anonymous have its spies already in place and will Facebook find them? Can Facebook defend itself and can Anonymous dent a massive empire such as Facebook? In one way or the other, November 5 will bring some news and it will impact both sides - and possibly the credibility of either side. Anonymous announced an event for the history books and it certainly raises a certain expectation - for Facebook, Anonymous and law enforcement.
However, if we assume that Facebook, in fact, will be destroyed, how would such an event change your life?
You would most certainly lose your morning newspaper that has been reduced from headlines and following articles to status messages from your ecosystem. Today, for example, I would have missed information that includes the sample below, even before I hit the shower:
- A friend needs to "go pee"
- Someone met Howard Stern outside their hotel
- Someone was at the gate waiting to board a flight to Miami
- Someone being excited about their first Chromebook
- Someone had trouble sleeping during the night due to a loud locust sitting just outside the bedroom window
- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation asks what a soccer field and polio have in common
- Plenty of updates on the riots in London, personal updates with vacation pictures and funny videos
- Intel is heavily pitching current and future capabilities of Sandy Bridge graphics this morning
- Someone discovered that having dinner with an iPad is not as fulfilling as having dinner with his wife
- There is the usual array of famous quotes to get you started for the day. An example: - "Life is short and there will always be dirty dishes, so let's dance." ~James Howe
Of course, this was just a look into my Facebook morning newspaper, but I imagine there are millions of people who see a similar array of messages. In the same way, I am pretty sure that my own messages that I find newsworthy to be posted to my Facebook friends aren't viewed as earth-shattering as I may see them. Reading the news of the day is usually followed by house cleaning, literally. I remove strange posts from my Facebook Wall and see if there are any messages and comments that require my immediate attention. Surely enough, there was an answer from a business associate, because we recently began communicating via Facebook messaging only. The reason: Both of us are using Facebook apps on our smartphones and we strangely tend to get informed about Facebook messages in a much more timely manner than actual email. And it's not just the two of us. Facebook Messages do not have the official touch of email, but those messages are surely a way to get an answer to a question in a much faster way than using old-fashioned email.
Could I live without that morning routine? Probably, but it would require an inconvenient adjustment and change of habit. I will spare you the rest of Facebook traditions, as you know them anyway. When you visit your wellness center, you will, more than likely, see people on Facebook before they enter or leave the gym. We are checking in to restaurants and other places (my personal bathroom, which I created as a Facebook place a while ago has become an attraction and a popular check-in place in our neighborhood.) You see people updating their status messages while driving. You will often see people uploading pictures or videos. It's a pattern that continues throughout the day, which we use to keep us visible within our network and I would claim that many of us use it to attain a status of general popularity or celebrity - which may work or not.
According to DoubleClick's most recent advertiser data, more than 300 million people visit Facebook on a daily basis, and more than 870 million different people per month. DoubleClick estimates that Facebook now reaches almost 51% of the Internet population, which generates 930 billion page views per month. The average Facebook user visits Facebook (on the web, not through smartphones) 29 times per month and spends a total of 725 minutes per month on the site. That would be 12 hours and 5 minutes every month or about 6 days per year - or 1 year, 4 months and 2 days over the average human life span.
What would you do with all that extra time? What have we done with it before there was Facebook?
The Bottom Line
What we would do with the extra time is, of course, the wrong question to ask. We already have made the choice to spend a certain time on Facebook and apparently find value in doing so, for various reasons. We've already replaced other activities, for better or worse, with Facebook. Anonymous alleges that Facebook is putting our security at risk, which is generally accurate, even if I would argue that it is not exactly the company's fault and I would not agree that a single organization should claim the authority to commit a criminal act in order to save a few of us from their own stupidity.
A few weeks ago, I had an interesting discussion with a Google representative, who said that Google's Google+ network was designed to give people the same level of responsibility they have in real life - when they decide to share certain information only with certain people. This is a reasonable thought, but the problem is that we may not be as reasonable when we are playing real life on Facebook or Google+. I would argue that there is a lack of education in respect to what happens to the information that is posted to social networks. We may not be always immediately aware that certain posts may not be funny, annoying or informative, but potentially offensive or even legally questionable. We may not generally understand that the best way to protect us from security issues on Facebook or any other social network is to let common sense decide what you post and what not.
In the end, the threat from Anonymous (which may not be such an official threat after all) is surreal in many aspects. Are they serious or are they just playing? Are they using the credibility they gained from previous hacks? Would the unavailbility of Facebook affect us and how? Should the unavailability of Facebook affect us anyway? In my very personal opinion, an attack on Facebook - aside from the fact that it is criminal conduct - is the wrong idea, if Anonymous really wants to protect Facebook users. This kind of self-justice turns Anonymous into the very same organization they criticize: An authority that acts on behalf of people and assumes their responsibility and independence. As honorable as they claim an attack on Facebook is, it's damaging the interests of millions of people that use Facebook to organize various aspects of their lives and stay in touch with family and friends.
As far as security is concerned, no one forces anyone to sign up for Facebook. We should remember that there will be an answer to virtually anything we do and it's a fact of life that we need to assume responsibility for anything we do. Whether that is in real life or on Facebook.