Facebook is the worst social media platform for so many reasons. Your feed is cluttered with #fakenews from conservative relatives. You have to watch people you went to high school with get married one after another, and you can’t post a single article without getting into a comment war with some hype, pseudo intellectual bro who studied philosophy in college.
But none of those are the reason hoards of people are deleting their Facebook accounts this week. Instead, they are being propelled by #DeleteFacebook, an online movement that burst into existence after the explosive news that Facebook has been harvesting user data and giving it away to whomever it wants, whenever it wants to.
As TechCrunch puts it, Facebook is using us. Over the weekend reports revealed that more than 50 million Facebook users had their private information collected in 2014 by a political data firm, Cambridge Analytica, with ties to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. The information was used for a “psychographic voter model,” which means Cambridge Analytica used the data to track the voting personalities of different users. Once they had that data, they used targeted ads and messaging to influence folks' election season decision-making.
The data collected includes status updates, likes, users’ friends' information, and sometimes private messages. But the information wasn’t stolen, and it involved no major breach or hacking of Facebook. In fact, a new story by the Guardian revealed that covert harvesting was routine and that Cambridge Analytica isn’t the only company benefiting. “Hundreds of millions of Facebook users are likely to have had their private information harvested by companies,” the Guardian reported.
The data being given away by Facebook is not being carefully monitored for the kind of misuse that Cambridge Analytica displayed. “Facebook had terms of service and settings that ‘people didn’t read or understand’ and the company did not use its enforcement mechanisms, including audits of external developers, to ensure data was not being misused,” former Facebook employee and whistleblower Sandy Parakilas told the Guardian. This means the Cambridge Analytica scandal could really be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the improper harvesting of Facebook users' private information.
According to the New York Times, Facebook claims no sensitive information such as passwords have been collected. By the time Facebook realized the data was being harvested and misused by Cambridge Analytica on such a large scale, it did very little to mitigate the problem, and failed to warn users that their profiles may have been targeted.
Facebook’s failure to protect users from the information breach, to inform users their data was being misused, and to mitigate the “Facebook-optimized propaganda” that came in the form of ads is why so many people are deciding to now delete their Facebook and all the data on their profiles. Facebook stock also fell drastically after the Cambridge Analytica news broke.
Many users on Twitter are expressing their complete loss of trust in Facebook and using the #DeleteFacebook hashtag to share their horror and discontent. If you need help figuring out how to delete your Facebook, check this out.