Stop Giving Facebook Your Data
We’ve been saying it for years, but recently it has become more certain than ever: Facebook is using us. The Facebook application is completely free to use, but the company is worth $500 Billion. That is Billion with a “B”. How is this possible? Facebook makes it possible by selling two things: data and access.
Data to what, and access to what? You!
Over the course of our online lives, we each accumulate a significant digital footprint. As FOREVER President and COO Dave Andros explained at the RootsTech Conference, “digital footprints are the records and traces of our online activities. They accumulate throughout our usage of websites, even those that are free.”
A profile of each of us is built from our online activity. This profile is used to feed us content that we and our friends like to keep us using platforms such as Facebook. They can tell which videos, articles, and photos we spend time on. Then they show us more material that is similar, and just like that we’ve spent hours of our day on Facebook and they have gained more information about our likes and dislikes.
As a result of all of this time, an entire history of each of us is created. It is perfect for showing advertisers and agencies exactly what ads and products to market to us.
I recently downloaded all of the data that Facebook has collected from me over the past 10 years. It was a massive file that was both fascinating and terrifying. As I dug deeper and deeper into my profile, I became overwhelmed by the amount of information they have about me. Every Facebook message and conversation I have ever been a part of, every like or comment I’ve posted, and every friend I’ve made was recorded, plus so much more. Even the embarrassing photos or posts that I have deleted over the years still exist in their profile of me.
Of course, I knew that using a free service came at a cost, but it is staggering to see how much information has truly been collected. (If you would like to explore your own information, you can do so by following these steps.)
So, what does Facebook do with all of this information?
On the surface, it appears as if this information is used to delight users and build connections. Facebook shows us videos, articles, and memes that we want to share and watch and enjoy. However, this isn’t done just out of kindness. The longer we spend on the platform, the more advertising dollars it makes. This relationship seems symbiotic – we get free access to friends and content, and Facebook makes a lot of money. But, since the goals of each group are so different, we are seeing that the social network created on Facebook seriously distorts reality.
What Facebook really does with our information was probably said best by John Briggs at TechCrunch. “[Facebook] is creating an echo chamber in the name of connection. It surfaces the divisive and destroys the real reason we began using social media in the first place – human connection… It is the definitive channel to target you based on age, sex, geographic location, political leanings, interests, and marital status. It’s an advertiser’s dream and it is wildly expensive in terms of privacy lost and cash spent to steal that privacy.”
Using a service requires that we trust it with our information, but Facebook has proven time and time again that it cannot be trusted. This most recent “breach” proves that Facebook may not only want to use our information to improve its products and our experience. This mock benevolence certainly does not extend to any other third-party providers who may wish to buy our information from Facebook.
Facebook is not just a social network. It is a data collection service for those who want to sell us products. While it can be great for keeping in touch with friends and family, it’s time that we are all more mindful of what we post and share on Facebook.