Imagine that you are going to be away for a long period of time, and so you ask your good neighbour to take care of the house for you. He says “Of course! No worries. I’ll be happy to.” Then he says, “By the way, we’ve got guests coming for a short stay. Can they use your guest room? We’ll make sure they tidy up.” You say, “OK. That’ll be fine.”
Now imagine that when you get home you realize that your neighbour has actually been using your house as a short-term rental property. When you walk in, you are horrified to discover that the renters have trashed the place and nothing is as you left it. Furniture has been moved around, there are holes in the walls, the carpet is covered in stains, and some things you valued have been stolen.
To make matters worse, you had been storing a friend’s property in your garage. You thought you had locked the garage but either you forgot to do that or the lock was picked. Either way, your friend’s stuff has been ransacked and stolen, too. It turns out the thieves passed it all on or sold it to people who could use it.
This is an analogy for what Facebook has done with our accounts. They let other people have access to our profiles for a fee. We knew they were going to sell information about us to advertisers, and mostly we were kind of ok with that. We even clicked “I agree” on a lengthy electronic agreement when we signed up. At the time, though, most of us had no idea quite how much information they had on us.
I expected them to identify my gender, age, location, where I went to school and so on. All that information is in my profile. What I didn’t expect was for Facebook to come up with about a hundred personal characteristics that identified my preferences in terms of humour, purchases, political leanings, education, travel, social standing, food, faith, and many, many other things that my posts and “likes” have portrayed about me. They have sold that information, too.
In addition to compiling all this information about me, they have sold the information to agencies that don’t just want to sell me things. They want to brainwash me with propaganda and make me believe that friends and neighbours who have other views are my enemies. They have purposefully set out to find out our differences and drive a wedge between us.
Then, the people to whom Facebook sold my information went further. Without authorization, they got access to my list of friends and all the data about their personal characteristics, too. They used that information to their advantage and spread their propaganda throughout my network and then the networks of my friends in an almost-endless chain of connections. No-one gave them that right. Not me, and not Facebook. Facebook had the keys, but they didn’t check.
So, as I said yesterday, I am angry about this. So angry that I am going to close my Facebook page and stop using it. Yesterday I thought I would delete the account, but on second thought I have decided to deactivate it instead. I am going to give Facebook a chance to make this right.
Within the next year, I hope that Facebook will acknowledge what they have done or failed to do and sincerely apologize. Then, I hope that they will make amends. It should not be possible for them to sell that much information about so many people to untrustworthy agencies. If they fix this, I will happily return to Facebook.
By deactivating my account, Facebook will keep my profile, my settings, my photos and so on, and the account will be there if I choose to return. If they fail to acknowledge their fault, apologize, and fix it, I will delete the account entirely.
In the meantime, I am going to miss seeing the faces and reading the thoughts of my friends and family every day. I have been a keen Facebook-user, and I have been visiting the site several times a day. Now my daily routines are going to change, and that is undoubtedly a good thing. Maybe I’ll even get outside more. Heck, I might even get more exercise and lose some weight. You never know. This could turn out to be very good for my health. I feel better already.