This morning, as I was scrolling through an article in The Guardian about the movement to boycott Facebook, a suggested article on the margin of the page read “Delete your account – a guide to life after Facebook.”
This concern, living life without Facebook, a social media platform that is already considered outdated by many millennials, has become so pressing that there was a need for these how-to-go-on-with-life articles on the internet.
As a social media user myself, I can’t help but wonder: in light of Facebook’s recent privacy scandal, is boycotting the platform as an indication of users’ moral outrage a naive attempt to stop the exploitation of private information that has already started?
Honestly speaking, I’d say so.
On March 17, news outlets across the nation revealed to Facebook users that the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had been gathering and using their basic profile information along with what they chose to “Like.”
This information, from an estimated 87 millions users, was collected through an app that American researcher Aleksandr Kogan developed.
One can only imagine how furious and shocked Facebook users were when they received the news, which ultimately led to the #DeleteFacebook movement on Twitter and other social media platforms.
Unfortunately, I think boycotting Facebook is certainly not going to stop the flow of information that big corporations can access through average users like you and me.
For one, Facebook owns at least three other apps on your phone screen. Starting in 2011, Facebook acquired other popular apps such as Instagram and Whatsapp by paying these small businesses in both credit and stock. They also created more relevant and widely used apps such as Messenger. It’s common for millennials to assume that only parents and grandparents use Facebook nowadays, but it is not false to say that the other apps mentioned above use plenty of your phone’s battery.
I hate to break it to you, but #DeleteFacebook is not going to cut it if you want your information to stay to yourself. Instead, try #deleteInstagramWhatsappMessengerFacebook.
Another phenomenon worth mentioning is how social media and internet users have paid much less attention to what they share online and how their information is being processed.
Turns out, all the information that you have ever shared on Facebook, deleted or not, can be easily retrieved with just a few clicks after you have logged in.
This means all the data Facebook has on you since your profile was created – your status updates, your images, your videos, your messages – are stored somewhere on the internet, easily harvested and nicely compacted into a ZIP file.
Though we may never know whether Facebook shares this private information to third-party businesses and advertising agencies, we do know that everything we have put on the internet stays there.
As you discover how creepy it is that your information can be obtained, I think it is important to be reminded of what you have willingly shared as a social media user.
Ultimately, these big media corporations have access to your information because you chose to share it in the first place. Your shipping and billing address, your credit card number, your contacts, your maiden name, your gender pronouns, your sexual orientation, etc. are just a fraction of your identity and private life that you have shared on the web, without explicitly hitting the “Share” button.
As a tradeoff for fast logins, one-click buying and tailored shopping experience and advertisements, users have sacrificed personal information – information that was supposed to stay private.
“I hate to break it to you, but #DeleteFacebook is not going to cut it if you want your information to stay to yourself.” – Skye Nguyen ’20
“It’s hard to remember a time before it, and, as such, it’s difficult to imagine life without it,” said TechCrunch.
In the past decade and a half, the blue F has been so prominent in our presence on the internet as social media users that it becomes challenging to find another way to pass time.
Even though boycotting Facebook and deleting Facebook accounts will not do much to the information leak that has taken place, social media users should take the recent scandal as a warning bell to think twice before entering personal data online.
Skye Nguyen ’21 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is from Hanoi, Vietnam. She majors in English.