The breakup – Ditching Facebook, permanently

This isn’t about me, it is about you. Seriously. I knew that you were abhorrent in your privacy practices. That you encourage people to over share, and that in the guise of creating a community, you have built walled silos and self reinforcing echo chambers. I knew that, and I continued to ritualistically log in, to swipe and share funny memes, to shake my head at obvious fake news (oh, when The Onion and The Borowitz report are the rational seeming posts), to make like minded friends (again, with the reinforcing of my biases), and to laugh and bond with my virtual friends.

I watched with horror as the 2016 election unfolded, and your platform was repeatedly used (abused) to fan the fires of partisan malaise, mostly on the conservative side, but also a troubling number of questionable sources, and outright bullshit spewed by so called liberal sources (The Palmer Report – I’m talking about you).

I was willing to wade through this messy world, to keep in contact, to build that sense of community. Until, that is, the Cambridge Analytica revelations. While we knew that early on, The Facebook was a cowboy culture, exploiting the private information of its members to increase both the stickiness of the network, and the intrinsic value to your shareholders (at the time, all private shareholders). All the while building to your first billion active users.

But Cambridge Analytica was different. It allowed an outside group to legally (as per your T’s & C’s) harvest data that was far beyond their charter, and then to retain and leverage that data for intents that were clearly out of scope. Their brazen lack of ethics, and chutzpah in their employing “big data,” without the explicit approval of the targets of their work is inexcusable.

When this came to light in early 2018, I was concerned enough to really read and understand what happened, and the details were horrifying. All the paranoid fears of big data were coming to the forefront. Still, weighing the “value” that Facebook provides me, keeping in touch with family and friends, old co workers, and what has become a clutch of people across the country (and world) that I have truly bonded with, I chose to stay on Facebook. Assuming that the scrutiny of the company by the government, would be enough to get their shit together. Of course, I was dismayed at the fairly pathetic grilling by their senior executives at the hands of the Congress Critters.

Then this week, two new revelations have come to light. First that major US device makers (and Canada), including Apple, and Blackberry, were granted pretty broad access to their data. This gets my spidey-sense tingling. Because if US device makers have access, one has to wonder about the others.

Turns out that many of the popular Android devices are made in China, by Chinese companies, many with ties to the Chinese military. And they had agreements with Facebook for data access. Companies like Huawei, and ZTE (you know, that company that was sanctioned for selling proscribed technology to prohibited countries and regimes). That really was the final straw, the one that broke the camel’s back.

Stepping back, Facebook has become an enormous monster, one that is permeating all corners of the web. It follows you wherever you go, building ever more data on you, your behaviors, your proclivities. By acquiring technologies that might have been peers, it has all but cornered the market. Heck, you pretty much have to leverage Facebook if you are doing modern social media marketing. They are Instagram. They bought What’s App, they continue to dominate the landscape.

South Park YahtzeeSo, this is it, I am going to delete my Facebook account. I will go through the three games of Yahtzee that I will need to win to truly remove the data. No, I am not naive enough to think that my data will be truly excised from the zeitgeist, but it is my sole act of defiance that I am able to do.

I have left Facebook a few times. Back in 2009, I went 8 months with my account deactivated. In 2016, I took another break, that time deleting my account (it does take 30 days to “remove” your data). But I returned to the platform after several people in my circles on Facebook found me via other channels, and convinced me to return.

However, this time, it will be permanent. Unless something drastic happens, as drastic as say the government regulating Facebook, or breaking it into parts. At one time, I was willing to pay to participate but not have my data as part of their set, but I am no longer naive enough to think that would ever be true, given the mindset of Facebook, and their business model. We are not the customers, we are the raw resources that they curate, groom, and offer up as their microtargeting to manipulative groups, whose intent can’t be divined.

No, I am pretty sure this time it is permanent. Ironically, one benefit will be to increase my free time, as it was one of my go-to apps to kill a few minutes on my phone in meetings, or elsewhere. I will return to religiously reading the two newspapers, and increase the time I can devote to my other passion, reading SciFi.

I will miss many, or most of my friends and contacts, that is just an unfortunate consequence.

Coda

As I was finishing this swan-song post, the news that Facebook last month (May 2018) had a bug where the private posts, by individuals who had gone in and set their privacy, as recommended, were visible to the entire world. As if there was the need for another breach to seal the deal.

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