I’m at the point where I just want to say – come on Facebook – get your sh*t together. I mean, they’re knee deep in it right now. In fact, that might be an understatement. As you’re probably aware, Facebook has come under some intense scrutiny due to its previous relationship with Cambridge Analytica. For those of you who haven’t been following this story, Cambridge Analytica is a data science company that secretly used information from 50 million Facebook users in order to help Donald Trump get elected. This has raised some serious questions about the potential role that Facebook played in this, but also the entire business practice of collecting data from its users.
As a result of this, Tim Cook has even suggested that Facebook needs some kind of regulation. And he’s not wrong. But at the same time, that’s a slippery slope. The challenge is that conservative governments don’t like to create regulation. They prefer to de-regulate so that businesses have a greater ability to operate. Which means, there’s a chance that Cook’s statements won’t amount to anything. That aside, what’s happening with Facebook is causing a lot of people to determine whether they should delete Facebook. In fact, there has been a hashtag for a little while now – #deletefacebook. The interesting part about this is that even Brian Acton is saying that you should delete Facebook. Acton is the co-founder of WhatsApp. Is this even an option though?
There are over 2 billion Facebook users worldwide. Facebook is the most popular social network in the world. Many people use it to keep in touch with family and friends from around the world. It doesn’t matter if your mother lives in Malaysia or if you have friends who live in Japan and Australia; You can keep in touch with all of them in just one place. Facebook’s also where you learn about their birthdays, their marriage proposals, their babies and their problems. It’s how you know if a friend is in from out of town, if your cousin got a new job, or just if someone is in trouble and needs help. Lots of people would feel disconnected without Facebook. That’s the intent of Facebook, but that’s not what’s happening right now.
While deleting Facebook was an easy move for me, it’s not an option for everyone. Jillian C. York, a writer, and activist in Berlin pointed out on Twitter that deleting Facebook is actually a privilege that many people just don’t have. York notes that people with disabilities, people with families across borders, young queer and transgendered people might lose their support network if Facebook were to go away. While I think that’s a concern, I also think that if Facebook didn’t exist, there would be alternatives to the service. That gap would be addressed some way, somehow, so I’m not convinced of York’s argument. I’m not saying it’s not valid, I am unsure though, that society would suffer quite the same way without it.
The bigger issue is the fact that Facebook is being used to log into so many apps and websites. Tinder, for example, relies on Facebook Login to authenticate users. For some, their Spotify playlists are tied up with a Facebook Login account. Sign up for a new Spotify account, and years of song preferences are suddenly gone. Sure, that doesn’t sound like a big deal but could be enough inconvenience for people to not delete their Facebook accounts. It also bears remembering that deleting your Facebook account while keeping your Instagram and WhatsApp accounts won’t exactly rid you of Facebook’s data-collecting ways.
Even if you do decide to delete your Facebook account, you’re still going to be tracked in other ways. Mobile phones are a tracking device. Which is why there should be more regulations around this kind of technology in general. And, it’s time for regulators to make Facebook accountable for all their actions. Because it’s not going to stop. As much as we would like it stop just because they’re being shamed publicly (and in some court cases), the reality is it will go on this way for a long time. We know that tech companies are starting to rule the world. What happens when this is more of a reality? Who is going to put rules in place then? I worry that this is not going to stop, so I think that something needs to be done soon. Regardless of whether you decide to keep your Facebook account or not.