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OPINION 5 min read 10 comments

It would be madness to trust Facebook in the future

It looks like dark days in Menlo Park. Facebook had around $37 billion of its market capitalization wiped out Monday, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg taking a $5 billion hit to his own net worth. The company has scheduled an open meeting for all employees on Tuesday to discuss the two words that threaten to topple the tech titan: Cambridge Analytica.

The name of the British research firm will be no stranger to anyone who has followed tech news in the last year or so, but it is only now that the public feeling engendered by the name has shifted from a vague suspicion to outrage, after in-depth reports from The New York Times and The Observer revealed that the shady voter-profiling firm had amassed personal data on over 50 million Facebook users in order to power a platform meant to influence American voters.

After over a decade engaging with Facebook and similar technology handed out to us for free in return for our data, it became easy to just shrug our shoulders about giving away our personal information, ostensibly so that we'd see better advertisements on these services. What's so dangerous about the Cambridge Analytica exposé is how it reveals how the big data harvesting threat isn't about seeing better banner ads, but can actually be exploited to cause real harm and social division.

Facebook doesn't come off well out of the affair, and initially tried to block The Observer report from seeing the light of day. What we're looking at isn't a hack or data breach. Facebook was already set up to allow anyone to harvest the data at the click of a button and then use it as they wished. Rather than attempt to put restrictions on what user data could be used for, the company looked the other way so long as the money kept flowing.

Now Facebook is under fire from US, UK and EU government authorities for failing to adequately inform and protect its users, and just as well. But as the Zuckerberg empire hemorrhages money and prepares to square off against lawmakers, where does that leave its 2 billion users?

Is this a breach of trust too far?

We've been burned by Facebook before. Aside from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook  aggravated many users by buying up WhatsApp and breaking promises not to share user data between the companies. For many, this could really be the last straw.

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Many were dismayed when Facebook and WhatsApp betrayed privacy pledges. / © AndroidPIT

Ultimately, Facebook draws its power from its users, all of us, who are the platform's product and content producers. While Facebook now faces regulation, a more serious threat could come from users threatening to walk out. And yes, we've seen enough fake dramatic Facebook storm-outs on an individual level, but this is something else.

Facebook is facing its biggest ever backlash, with frustrated users rallying on Twitter under the hashtag #DeleteFacebook and deserting the social network in droves in protest of Facebook’s data and privacy policies. Just when we thought that the notion of private personal data had become old-fashioned, it looks like we may have reached a tipping point.

Scandals aside, has Facebook lost its reason for existence?

Those of us who were early adopters of Facebook have seen the social network and our relationship with it change over time. This morning, Facebook decided to show me a 'memory' from over a decade ago, a picture uploaded when it was basically a platform for college students to joke, flirt and arrange parties. It still had something of the playful, irreverent spirit of the noughties-era net in its DNA. But now, over many years of Facebook feeding, growing, evolving and mutating, it's become quite a different beast.

Facebook isn't a place to express yourself to your friends and peers anymore, instead, it's a platform where you present yourself to the public. Your boss, your parents, your government, your extended family, your clients and customers are all watching. What used to be genuine, if often silly, interactions with friends on the wall has been replaced by a feed of news with endlessly repeating bad faith arguments in the comments section, and lazily shared memes, already vintage by the time they've left Reddit and Twitter.

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Facebook isn't as fun as it used to be. / © AndroidPIT

Facebook no longer captures the young, and because of that, its days were always numbered. But the withdrawal of its early userbase, who, like myself, joined when we were teenagers, could well hasten its downfall.

What the 'memory' from Facebook's algorithms really drove home in my mind was how much I'd already withdrawn my participation. I no longer cared to make personal statements on the platform. I never, ever disclose what's on my mind. I held back from commenting on discussions because I'd become sick of repetitive arguments with strangers. And I'd wised up to the danger of personality tests, quizzes, campaigns and other data harvesting tools.

Since my habits have changed and I no longer supply Facebook with the amount of data I used to, why leave the old information there? Why not withdraw completely? The answer for many of us will be a familiar one: "because everyone else uses it". It seems no one really trusts Facebook, but most just continue to use it reluctantly, out of inertia. But as the backlash grows and alternatives become more attractive, we may eventually reach a critical point where this no longer holds up.

Is it time to #DeleteFacebook? Or can the social media giant be rehabilitated? If Facebook can indeed find a way to tempt people back, it may find that we will not sell ourselves so cheaply next time.

What do you think? Should we all #DeleteFacebook?

Has the way you use Facebook changed after recent scandals?
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  • Sorin 3 weeks ago Link to comment

    If you take care of what you say on FB, then there is no problem. It is good not to give details about your intimate life, or other sensitive information. For this there are other possibilities to communicate, guaranteed 100%. Everything you say on FB is like crying in the big mouth and maybe so everyone can hear you.


  • I've always had a Facebook account that is privy (ie I don't share everything about my personal life). Facebook is useful to a degree, but so are Instagram and Twitter! I doubt having Mr. Zuckerberg step down is going to change anything, but it wouldn't hurt to sign petitions urging changes for the better ....

    It seems that every Social Network has had a breach with faux accounts ready to fish your personal information .... maybe Facebook was fooled, or maybe they didn't care as long as revenue was being generated (they're not the 1st Social Network to break a promise, and they probably won't be the last)!

    I honestly don't see a safe Social Network existing, unless it becomes a monthly paid subscription (an I doubt a majority online are going to pay for what they feel should remain free)! I DO feel your personal information / pictures \ videos is something one should be safe to share with others securely (just do so wisely) .....


  • Babies think it's impossible to control what they do. First there are diapers, then positive encouragement. Then a big hard swat on the bum. Now baby gets it.


  • I'm really having fun with all this "article writing" people believing that Facebook is going to suffer because of this. You guys don't really get that MOST (that means everybody that doesn't comment or even read this kind of articles) people don't give a shit about privacy...
    They surrender gladly their privacy just to get free games or be able to take a peek on anyone's life...
    Facebook is not going anywhere.


  • What bothers me about "social media"... what they have accused Cambridge Analytic of doing, has been documented to have been done in 08 & 12 with the Obama campaign. Anyone that thinks those silly "games" on FB, such as "which hollywood movie star are you" or, "what color are you", are just for entertainment, are crazy. It's data mining. Questions stated in such a way that you think are funny/cute, but, by the answer you give, it can reveal TONS about the person, which is used for whatever purpose, those that wrote the questions, to get the data they want.
    Personally, I think everyone pretty much gave up their privacy, security with the advent of the TOS agreements...software, smartphones, etc... people just click and go on.


  • As others - Never had it, never will. I work in IT and have long had huge reservations about FarceBook and personal security. Its nice to see some of what I've been saying come out in the open. Now need something similar for Google, etc....


    • It's two different situations. FB had a breach they know about and didn't tell anyone. When you buy an Android device you voluntarily give up privacy


  • Mike 4 weeks ago Link to comment

    Never had it, never will


  • Mark
    • Admin
    4 weeks ago Link to comment

    I never have or would ever trust Facebook or any other social media company. That is one reason I do not use social media and all the anti social behavior it creates. I much rather meet my friends for a brew than chat on a phone or computer


  • storm 4 weeks ago Link to comment

    It has ALWAYS been madness to trust Facebook.

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