Recent revelations about Cambridge Analytica and Facebook’s use of users’ personal information has only confirmed what I had initially thought of Facebook: they wanted too much information from me, and they couldn’t be trusted to keep it private, regardless of what ‘privacy settings’ I opted for.
In the first years of the social network’s existence, all of my friends giddily hopped on board, posting and sharing everything about their lives and their families. I sat it out, suspicious, naturally reluctant to share my feelings, opinions, or preferences in public.
A few years ago, in the interest of promoting my work, I did create a Facebook page for the Old Money Book, where some of the posts from this blog would appear. After several issues with Facebook Ads (which were probably due to my lack of technical expertise) and difficulties auto-loading WordPress blog posts to the Facebook page (not my issue), I asked Facebook to delete the Old Money Book page.
To this date, they still haven’t honored my request. This is telling. They do what they want to do and don’t do what they don’t want to do, regardless of your personal preferences or requests.
Many point to the face that Facebook has been a great innovation for business and society. I agree. It has. Most of the time. The darker aspect is the social network’s business model, which most people don’t fully appreciate: it is to get your personal information and sell it. To do this, they want to know everything they can about you.
To younger people, who grew up with the internet and social media, the concept of what I understand as ‘privacy’ is nonexistent. Their entire lives are online, visible for all the world to see, or at least accessible for too many people to find. And analyze. And monetize.
As we now know, companies not only use this information to sell you things; they use it to persuade and manipulate your behavior, to shape your opinions, to play upon your aspirations, and to prey upon your fears.
In addition to making people nuttier than they already are, this is very dangerous for democracy.
I cherish my privacy. My mood turns foul when anyone–individuals or institutions–want information from me. I think, at this juncture, I’m entitled to ask information about them: what their business practices are, who they do business with, what their credit rating and reputation is. Prove yourself worthy of my information, I say. Then, and only then will I consider sharing it with you.
Those who favor more surveillance and less privacy often say ‘If you’re not doing anything wrong, you shouldn’t mind’. These people are either working for Big Brother or idiots. I have no patience for it.
Most importantly, privacy is a safeguard for patriots, as the American and French revolutions bear out. I may very well be plotting a revolution, and I may very well want to keep that a secret from prying eyes. And, in a free society, I have every right to keep that a secret, as long as I don’t break any laws.
And yes, revolutionary ideas are dangerous, but only to tyrants and corrupt elites. But, hey, If you’re not doing anything wrong, you shouldn’t mind.
26 thoughts on “Privacy and Social Media: The Facebook Situation”
Could not agree with you more! Have never been on Facebook; NEVER WILL BE! And haven’t missed a thing.
I couldn’t agree more….from the other side of the aisle! I’ve had similar FB problems.
Thanks, Mary Helen. – BGT
We are a social media-free family, which is not an easy feat when raising a tween and a teen! People who don’t know us well think it’s weird that we have no social media ‘presence,’ but people who do know us well understand our decision.
That’s great, Melissa. Good for you. Thanks, – BGT
You can remove the oage yourself. It’s easy.
Thanks, Timothy. And welcome. I’m going to see if I can go back and do that. Much appreciated. – BGT
Hi Byron. Agree completely. Neither my husband or I have ever been on Facebook and never will be…or any social media site for that matter. The reasons are the very ones you stated….our own privacy. What we do with our daily lives is personal, and we, myself particularly, do not wish to share it with the world. Honestly, there’s nothing to show and tell, but that’s still for us to decide. We recently met someone who thought it the most bizarre behavior that we weren’t on Facebook. She said she never met anyone before who wasn’t! A very telling statement indeed!
Thanks, Bev. Wow…very telling indeed, indeed. – BGT
It is easy to delete your facebook page, just go to the page settings and click unpublish.
Thanks, Jacob. I thought I did that. I’ll try again. – BGT
Facebook is a bit creepy, I admit. I signed up a few years ago to see photos of family who live overseas. Honestly, it has been quite nice to connect and share a little with them in that way. There are cousins I would never be in touch with otherwise. As with everything, there is good and bad. As an OM Gal (in spirit, and as a work in progress at that), I am able to understand the value of discretion. I have fewer than 35 connections. I don’t have an app on my phone. Or indeed, any apps. I expect Amazon and Google have far more intel on me than FB does. To discontinue use of those sites would be much more life-disrupting, so I think Facebook is an easier target.
thanks, Elle. Yes, we’ll start where we can and go from there. – BGT
According to news reports, both major political parties as well as several large corporations have been able to “mine” Facebook for demographic data for quite some time. They are able to predict within a reasonable margin of error how Facebook users will vote, what they will buy, where they will vacation, etc. … very troubling.
Thanks, Keith. Yes, troubling is the word. Hope you’re well. – BGT
Thank you again for a very well written commentary. Although I have a facebook page I keep nothing too personal on it. It’s mainly used to keep up with friends around the world. Facebook worries me and I am looking at other ways to stay in touch.
Thank you, Jane. I know a lot of people who are retreating and looking for a work-around in order to stay in touch. – BGT
Social media can be powerful if you curate it correctly. I quit Facebook a while ago when I saw people post pictures of the food they are eating. Now on the other hand I have been reading along with an NPR/New York times book club that I find very interesting, but I don’t need an account to see the page. I also stopped following a certain government official on Twitter who would tweet statements way beneath the office they hold. On the other hand Twitter is useful for following my local police department who do a great job keeping my town informed about anything out of the ordinary that may be happening. It’s just like with Television if you use it for ambient noise you will wreak the family dynamic in your house, but the the rewards will be incredible if you subscribe to services like Walter Presents and FilmStruck and schedule a family movie night.
Thanks, Bob. Articulate and informative. Great perspective. – BGT
As an educator I always knew the danger to my career with social media. Students are too curious and mischievous. I have never been on Facebook and use twitter for business purposes only. Even there I am reluctant. Privacy is an Old Money value. The internet has undoubtedly made our lives better which is why we are on this blog, but we need to understand the privacy issue. Our information is a valuable commodity ad maybe the only danger is having marketers try to sell me something I might want to buy, but it could end up in the hands of government which is what this story should tell us. Government is subordinate to the people and that will reverse itself if we hand over our personal information to them voluntarily.
Excellent comment, Dario. Thank you. I really appreciate your insight as a shaper of young minds. – BGT
I created a Facebook account mainly to communicate with younger members of a group with which I volunteered. Over time, it has proven valuable as a tool to reconnect with long-lost friends. I take comfort in the strong likelihood that I am not important enough for anyone to waste significant resources to probe my personal details.
On a serious note – two recommendations. Don’t post anything you truly want to keep private, and do not download the Messenger app because it gathers personal info from your smartphone.
Thank you, Andrew. Good perspective on your experience and sound advice. Much appreciated. – BGT
I had read years ago, someone say that Facebook (not business, but personal) serves one of 3purposes most often:
Look at people’s posts and you can generally easily see which category they fall in 😁.
Good point, well said. Thanks, Charissa. I’ll have to remember that. – BGT