I am qutting Facebook Inc as of today.
Normally I wouldn’t think that changes in my personal software usage should warrant any explanation, however in this case I feel it may be worth explaining.
It is my feeling that the platform caters to, and frankly encourages, what I would call ‘passive friendships’. By only scanning the feed for a few minutes here and there while dropping a few likes, a user can easily get a sense of participation in their ‘friends’ lifes. This happens even when people have not met nor talked to each other in person for years.
By making every waking moment of our lives publicly available through social platforms, we drastically diminish the value of meeting in person to catch up and share what has been going on in our lives since the last time we met. I personally don’t like this trend at all.
Facebook has become the primary way that people in Iceland (as I assume in many places) communicate, so I have felt compelled for years to have an account due to social pressures. Family, friends and colleagues all use it heavily to organize. Not using Facebook would effectively be willingly excluding my self from the discussions and events, both public and private.
While at first understandable, this way of thinking really doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. I believe that those really wanting to stay in touch will seek to do so through other means, as will I. Others will be professional relationships, for which I use LinkedIn and the rest will be connections not kept alive for a long time, and so have already withered.
There are the various groups, which are mostly time sinks that offer up almost no actual value. Bickering men children, endless memes and debates about meaningless things in the local programming group or tired discussions about politics in others. The only active group I will miss is a group about the world’s food culture. But I can live without it.
Facebook has long outgrown its innocent dorm-room side-project image, to become one of the largest tech corporations in US history. Those kind of companies usually come with shareholders who, rightfully so, demand ever increasing gains on their investments. With that kind of pressure and access to so much personal information, who is to say what this corporation will decide to do in an effort to increase its overall revenue stream.
There has been public discussion about the fact that while Whatsapp (one of Facebook Inc’s products) has end-to-end encryption (meaning messages are encrypted between two or more parties and become unreadable by the Facebook’s infrastructure as they pass through their servers) there are no guarantees that Facebook hasn’t put in place on-device parsing of messages before they are encrypted and sent out. After all, their applications are not open source.
Last year, WhatsApp’s CEO and co-founder Jan Koum quit over privacy disagreements with the parent company. His previous partner and Whatsapp co-founder, Brian Acton, also quit the company in 2017 to start a foundation around Signal, an open source privacy conscious messaging platform, in an effort to build nonprofit technology for the public good.
I get the sense that me and him share our views on Facebook.
As has been covered in numerous places, throughout the years, there have been many leaks of private user data from Facebook Inc’s systems. The most recent, biggest and most publicized is the Cambridge Analytical leak in 2018, where the personal data of 87 million users was discovered to have been harvested and used for politically motivated advertising. Among those would be the 2016’s US presidential elections and 2016’s UK Brexit vote, results of which I would not call a step in the right direction.
Two muppets now hold the highest and most powerful public offices in the western world. What is to stop indiviuals that have access to such vast insights into, and frankly the ability to directly read private messages of, the world’s human population from seeking political power themselves in the near future?
It has become aparent that users of Facebook Inc’s products can be looked at as laboratory mice; easily observable, measured and quantized in a best case effort to effect spending behaviour, and in the worst cases to steer the political landscape of whole continents.
The effects of the Cambridge Analytica leak will continue to be around for some time potentially helping to derail important discussion and decision making on matters impacting us all, such as the ongoing global climit crisis, for years to come.
I have no delusions that me leaving the platform will have any impact at all. This is more about removing Facebook, and the noise it makes, from my daily routine. Knowing that I am leaving at least one laboratory and limiting the ways I can be manipulated is simply a plus.
If you are someone I previously was connected to through Facebook or Whatsapp and you want to keep in touch, then you can find my contact details here.