I just posted this to Facebook:
So let’s review what we’ve learned about Facebook in the past couple of weeks:
- They allowed an app to do mass scraping of user data, including the data of friends of app users, and then didn’t reveal that information disclosure for years afterward.
- The combination of that user data, along with the targeted advertising Facebook sells, allowed foreign entities to manipulate the electorate in unprecedented ways leading up to the 2016 US elections and the 2016 Brexit referendum in Britain.
- They have regularly scraped up user’s phone data wherever possible, including location history, phone call logs, and the contents of text messages – including even those sent outside of the Facebook application.
At this point I think it’s fair to ask: is it really worth it? Am I getting benefit from Facebook that outweighs the cost of enabling this sort of corporate behavior and community effect?
There’s a truism in the online world: if you’re not paying for the product, chances are that you are the product. That’s certainly true with Facebook. And Google. And probably a lot of other online products and services. (It’s no accident that the products you search for on Amazon suddenly show up in ads on Facebook!) While we may never be able to get out of this model completely, there are steps I can take to do my part.
- I’m switching over to use DuckDuckGo instead of Google for my web searches. DuckDuckGo doesn’t track users, making their money only via untracked advertising and untracked affiliate links.
- I pay for email service from ProtonMail. It’s not as shiny and slick as Gmail, but they also don’t scan my email to target ads. (I still have a Gmail account as a backup… but I’m trying to not use it regularly.)
- I pay for Newsblur as an RSS feed reader. I subscribe to ~500 blogs and websites via their RSS feeds… this provides me the bulk of my news on a daily basis.
Enough is enough.
So, I’m deactivating my Facebook account and deleting the apps from my phone. There are a few things I’ll miss, but many that I won’t. If you are my friend and want to stay in touch, there are still a multitude of available ways. I’m @cjhubbs on Twitter. I’m chris (at) chrishubbs.com for email. If you’re the texting type, hit me up for my phone number. Thoughts that I used to post to Facebook will instead be posted to my blog.
I have no preconceptions that this action on my part will change Facebook for the better… but hopefully it’ll be a change for the better for me. I’d encourage each of you to think about it for yourselves.