Friday, September 21, 2018
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Delete Facebook? Not so fast.


Source: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the #DeleteFacebook movement has been trending across social media outlets, pushing users to stop using the platform. But what does it mean and why does it matter?

So, what happened?

The Cambridge Analytica leak was not a data breach or hack, according to Facebook. Instead, the perpetrator of the alleged attack on privacy, Dr. Kogan, a researcher at Cambridge University, broke Facebook’s privacy policy by selling private user information he gathered using a personality quiz to Cambridge Analytica. Although only 270,000 users consented to have their data harvested by Dr. Kogan, about 50 million profiles were given to Cambridge Analytica.

The impact of the hack was that the profiles of these users were released to Cambridge Analytica, a private research company. It is not clear what they did with this data, but having the data itself violates Facebook’s privacy policy. Facebook is placing the blame on Dr. Kogan, and the company says it is not responsible for his actions. However, different authorities, including the British government, say that Facebook should have been more transparent with the information that different agencies can collect from users.

How have consumers responded?

8% of surveyed Facebook users, including celebrities Will Ferrell and Jim Carrey, have already said they would stop using the platform completely. Three days before deleting his account, Ferrel posted:

I know I am not alone when I say that I was very disturbed to hear about Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of millions of Facebook users’ information in order to undermine our democracy and infringe on our citizens’ privacy. I was further appalled to learn that Facebook’s reaction to such a violation was to suspend the account of the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower.

In this day and age, with misinformation running rampant, it’s important that we protect the truth, as well as those who work to bring it to light. I can no longer, in good conscience, use the services of a company that allowed the spread of propaganda and directly aimed it at those most vulnerable.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said his company would “learn from this experience to secure our platform further and make our community safer for everyone going forward,” after his net worth dropped $14 billion and Facebook’s stock fell 18%. Despite claiming to be proactively addressing their user data problem, Facebook has not described exactly how its users are becoming safer from targeted leaks like this one.

What should you do now?

Let’s assume you don’t want your information to be harvested by Facebook, but you still want to connect with friends and family. The most useful thing you could do is install tracker blockers in your browser, which can limit the amount of information companies can see when you move to different websites, or use a proxy server in a country with strict data privacy laws.

Some users may be looking for an alternative to Facebook. While no platform is truly all-inclusive with the features Facebook has, including groups, public posts, games, etc. there are apps that encrypt user information and communications, the most popular of which is Signal. However, as these apps are relatively new, it is unlikely that your friends would choose them over the well-established, user-friendly Facebook. This makes “deleting” trackers impossible if you want to stay connected to your friends and family.

If you truly despise Facebook, you will go to your profile and delete your account. That may not change much, however. Google and other companies are still tracking you everywhere online. Companies profit from tracking you and siphoning your data, and then selling it to advertisers. As long as you are using the internet, you are putting your personal information at risk.

 

Sources:

https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/03/28/597598628/facebook-down-80-billion-in-market-value-playboy-spacex-tesla-exit

http://www.businessinsider.com/will-ferrell-said-he-will-delete-his-facebook-2018-3

https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2018/03/28/people-really-deleting-their-facebook-accounts-its-complicated/464109002/

http://www.khou.com/article/news/nation-now/delete-facebook-its-a-lot-more-complicated-than-that/465-3102fd8c-1c2c-46ad-8256-ea49cccb4b2c

https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/3kjzvk/facebook-cambridge-analytica-not-a-data-breach

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/19/technology/facebook-cambridge-analytica-explained.html (soft paywall)

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/21/technology/personaltech/delete-facebook.html (soft paywall)

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