Dec 2018 edit: In the 4 years since my post, there have been numerous Facebook scandals, embarrassments, and security breaches. If you’re still using Facebook, you can’t really claim ignorance anymore. You’re choosing to submit your data to a company that doesn’t care about you at all, nor its employees. Please don’t forget, Instagram and Whatsapp are owned by Facebook, and are no better.
I joined Facebook on Friday, June 24, 2005. This June would mark 9 years worth of wall posts and status updates, however my account won’t reach it’s 9th birthday.
I will be deleting my Facebook profile on Saturday, May 3rd, 2014.
In college, Facebook was a convenient tool for meeting new friends and messaging my existing ones. Over the past 8 years I have watched a powerful social platform turn into a money hungry, data mining empire that has stretched its tentacles out into as many areas of our lives as it could reach. Communication tools come and go throughout the years, but few have been as large and widespread as Facebook. While I will miss the useful parts of Facebook, the main reason I will be quitting Facebook is due to privacy concerns with the amount of data they are collecting, their motives, and their use of my data.
Facebook doesn’t care about your privacy on the site.
- New “features” expose data first and ask for permission last. Many changes have required users to “opt-out” in order to retain their privacy, instead of keeping their privacy by default.     The FTC sued FB over this practice, and won.
- Your name can be used next to ads. If you like a product or company, you might help Facebook sell those things to your friends, all without your permission.
- For many years, Facebook didn’t have a “delete account” option, just a “deactivate” account option. Why would they not offer a delete? They wanted to keep all of your data and use it for marketing purposes.
- And if Facebook says something is “private”, it’s not. Facebook is currently facing a class-action lawsuit in the US and another in Canada accusing Facebook of scanning private messages in order to use message content to learn what ads to target to those users.
Facebook violates your privacy, even when it’s outside of Facebook.
- In 2007, Facebook launched Beacon, an ad tracking technology that tracked Facebook users’ web activity even when users logged out of Facebook.
There was no way to opt-out or stop tracking and a class-action lawsuit won a $9.5 Million settlement.
- “Like” buttons on any website can track that you visited the page.
- In 2011 FB was found to be tracking users who weren’t even signed into Facebook. [Additional details]
- Not on Facebook? That’s not an issue, as Facebook creates Shadow profiles where they collect data of users who aren’t even on Facebook, in the chance that they might join in the future.
- “You bought Coke at Safeway, so you might like [insert ad here].” Yes, even your grocery store purchases are linked to your Facebook profile via your “loyalty card”.
Facebook’s data partners can let ad buyers target as specific as “people who buy children’s cereals.” Next time you use your reward card when grocery shopping, remember that Facebook is learning your shopping habits.
In addition to all the above, Facebook known a lot more data about you. And it’s creepy.
- Facebook knows your face, better than you probably know it yourself.
Facial Recognition on Facebook started back at least as early as 2011. Facebook uses this to recommend tags for your friends in photo uploads.
In 2013 Europe realized this was quite an invasion of privacy and required FB to delete all European facial tagging data.
But that doesn’t stop the technology from getting creepier. In 2014, FB engineers unveiled ‘DeepFace’, a facial recognition algorithm with 97% accuracy.  
Every additional photo that gets tagged on Facebook helps them build a facial recognition database any government would drool over.
- “Deep Learning” AI is being worked on at FB to try to analyze meanings from anything you do on the site. Every time you click (or don’t click) they’re trying to figure out why. Do you browse through image albums of people you never talk to? Facebook knows who you stalk. So not only does Facebook want to know what you “like”, they are trying to learn what makes you tick.
A Zuckerberg quote outlines this passion clearly. “The real value will be if we can understand the meaning of all the content that people are sharing, we can provide much more relevant experiences in everything we do.”
- Continual location tracking happens to anyone using the official FB mobile apps. Have you noticed that if you have GPS turned on, FB will try to find your location even if you’re simply opening the app?
There is no opt-out or ability to turn this “feature” off. Location based ads are a huge possible market, and that requires knowing where you always are.
- FB has enough data to track migration patterns of humans, and uses your data as they see fit for their research purposes
- All of this data is all in addition to what you share on your profile, which Facebook uses to target ads towards you.
Remember: You are the product; not the customer.
Facebook is crazy rich, and is trying to buy its way into dominance.
- FB bought Instagram (and 30 million users) for $1 Billion.
- FB bought WhatsApp (and 450 million monthly users) for $19 Billion.
In just these two acquisitions, Facebook spent $20 BILLION on services that Facebook could have easily had their own engineers create.Why did Facebook buy these apps instead of making their own?
Both of these apps had a large number of active users, and they were using a social app that wasn’t Facebook. That scares them.Let me put the price of these acquisitions into perspective:
- Disney bought Pixar (Toy Story, Incredibles, Nemo) for $7.4 Billion.
- Disney bought Marvel (Avengers, Iron Man, etc…) for $4.2 Billion.
- Disney bought LucasFilm (Star Wars, Indiana Jones) for $4 Billion.
Disney purchased these major entertainment franchises, all of their characters, and the rights to sell movies and anything related to them for $15.6 Billion.
Even if you adjust for inflation, Facebook paid more for a chat application than Disney paid for all of our favorite entertainment characters and the rights to make money off of them. Facebook has and is willing to spend that much money to keep you sucked in and using their products in any form possible, even if it means spending a crazy amount of money to do so.
- Businesses can no longer post on Facebook and expect that their fans will see their posts. Facebook has modified newsfeed so only 2-6% of a pages’ fans will see the posts.
That is, unless the page pays Facebook to promote that post in their fans’ newsfeeds.
- And Facebook has no problem keeping their money through use of tax loopholes to reduce their taxes as much as possible; sometimes to $0.
You can’t trust your data with FB.
- “In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg hacked into the email accounts of two Harvard Crimson reporters using data obtained from TheFacebook.com’s logs.”
- In 2010 everyone’s private email addresses were public for a period of 30 minutes.
- Again in 2013 Facebook exposed emails and phone numbers for over 6 million users.
With the NSA and other hackers scanning the internet constantly for leaked data and vulnerabilities, any temporary leak is dangerous. (Search: HEARTBLEED for just how bad temporary vulnerabilities can be)
- Mark Zuckerberg wants your data to be public. If he were to go back and rebuild Facebook, he would make all user information public by default.
There is no guarantee that any of your private information will remain private in the future.
Chrys Bader wrote an interesting post describing that all social movements go through 4 social stages, and that the “Facebook movement” is simply reaching the end of it’s lifespan. Maybe it is just reaching the end of it’s “cool era” and that’s why it’s spending all of its money to keep users around. I don’t think that is Facebook’s biggest problem though. Facebook has reached far too deep into the private lives of anyone who would let it. They are continuing down a dark path that has no light at the end for its users. We are the product in a big, evil machine that is destined to collect as much as it can about all of us. And it needs to be stopped before it’s too late.
I’m taking a stand against this evil. I am also hoping that it is true when Facebook says that they will delete my data when I permanently delete my account. I sure hope they do, because in 2012 Max Schrems found out that Facebook still kept his data, even data that was supposed to be “deleted”.