The recent excitement concerning Cambridge Analytica’s abuse of 80 million Facebook users’ data reminded me to delete my Facebook account a few weeks back. It’s not the first time I’ve closed my account – the last time was back in 2010 when Facebook were found to be unhelpful and under-resourced for assisting police track down child stalkers. In this case, Cambridge Analytica used a perfectly designed and legal mechanism to gain information, and then not do what they agreed with Facebook to do – destroy it. Instead, they mined it and then, at the behest of political actors, leveraged the insights to target misinformation at marginal voters to sway the outcome of the 2016 US presidential race (among other things).
Facebook often assert that they don’t share users’ data with third parties without those users’ explicit consent. The only thing is, when you wade your way through settings and Ts and Cs it’s pretty hard not to give such consents – and most people unintentionally do. So Facebook hasn’t really done anything wrong according to their Terms – it’s just that the Terms let them do things we didn’t expect and now it seems we were not really OK with that, after all.
I’m not a heavy user of facebook and the only thing I now miss is some messenger functionality – Instagram still works as I use a separate set of credentials. But if you get your political cues for how to vote or what is really going on in the world from Facebook and would miss that, there are other issues that make their apparent misuse of data not so much of a big deal. You just need to remember: the use of users’ data stored within Facebook is at its own sole discretion – you don’t own what you share there, they do. That’s because you aren’t the customer of Facebook. Advertisers are.
But getting back to photos, I was reminded, rather than prompted for the first or second time, to leave, because I’ve also struggled with the way Facebook (and Instagram) feel about your photos. It’s similar to their view of your information – they are theirs to use or re-use any way they like with no regard for creative rights or IP:
“For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.”
This doesn’t revoke your copyright, but it means they don’t have to be bound by it. If that rankles you, you can remove your photos from Facebook with the handy tips in this article. At the bottom of the article, there is also the simple process of deleting your account – which is by following this link.
So go on and #deletefacebook – I did, and it didn’t hurt a bit.