Dear Facebook,

Dear Facebook,

I left you a few months ago and it was kinda tough. I mean, many people I know run their lives through you. Many groups I desire to be connected with are managed through you. To be connected to these people and these groups requires me to have a Facebook account.

But, Facebook, you are not trustworthy as is evidenced by the numerous reports and inquiries by governments into your activities. You profited substantially from the overthrow of the democratic process of the United State of America. We also know that all the incentives of our government and economic system point towards you doing as little as possible (and possibly nothing at all) to curb the abuses of your users (also known as the product you sell to advertisers).

But, I needed to be connected to some things I really valued. So, I created a new account with a fake name. This is, of course, against your Terms of Service. It’s probably the only thing that most users know is in the Terms of Service, that you have to use ‘the name you go by in everyday life.’ My thought is that you can know a few things about someone with an odd name and as long as they don’t know about ME. I’d have a few of my actual friends and be member of a few groups and all would be well. My critical connections would be maintained. But, you wants to know about ME. You want to connect what it learns about my everyday activities and what I like and dislike on pages to other public information about me: salary, home value, car purchases, whatever you can find by trolling the vast stores of data. You wants to create a detailed snapshot to sell to advertisers so they can target ads. So far, so OK. You serve to me creepily prescient advertisements, but I have the great value of connection to friends ranging back to elementary school.

But, you also sells this data to organizations that actively use it to guide your automated systems to sway opinion, encourage, and discourage voting… the net effect was you are profiting off the active undermining of our electoral system by a foreign power, all while creating a system that enabled others to nefariously use data that was never actually given for their their use.

Facebook, you can’t be trusted with the Real Me. 

You said that someone complained about my name, thinking I was a fake user. (I’m confident it was your automated systems that decided it was fake, whatever.) I’m not fake, but my account is intended to protect my identity. You implied it was OK to have a fake name if my account name was intended to protect me from abuse. I said that was the reason. Maybe I should have said exactly what the abuse was about: Your selling of data about me and ruining the institutions of the United States of America. But, I didn’t and now you’ve decided I’m not real. I’m real, but I’m also taking care of myself.

Anyway, you’ve locked me out now unless I produce a bill or ID with my faked name on it. That ain’t gonna happen. So, I guess our relationship is coming to a conclusive end.

I’m hoping you now goes the way of MySpace.

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The Cambridge Analytica Scandal Explains Why Facebook Can’t Be Trusted

Vox, as usual, has a great explainer (click me!) on what happened in the Cambridge Analytica Scandal. One take-home message for me from this article is that Facebook can’t be trusted because they can’t know what other people will do with the data they obtain on or from Facebook.

It basically describes that someone created an app that several hundred thousand people played with on Facebook. The app gathered raw Facebook data on those people and all their Facebook friends which is what took it to over 50 million profiles, allegedly without notifying those who played with the apps that it would harvest from their friends, too. That appears to be against Facebook’s policies.

Furthermore, the sale of data gathered from other than the people who directly interacted with the app is against Facebook’s policies, also.

So, in a sense, Facebook is blameless? After all, it is alleged someone hacked their system and broke their rules.

For me, blameless or not, Facebook can’t be trusted with all it knows about us. The reason is that even with all the rules and protections in place that it cares to have, Facebook is unlikely to be able to detect many of these kinds of breaches and unlikely to be willing to do anything about those it detects. If my friend steals a candy bar and sells it to me, I’m unlikely to know it was stolen property and the store is unlikely to discover it was sold to another person. The only way I get connected to receiving stolen property is if the thief confesses or I mention I’ve got an unusual candy bar that I shouldn’t have. That’s what happened in the Cambridge Analytica situation, one of their worker bees let it be known that he was working with data he knew he shouldn’t have.

Without those kinds of confessions, such theft will happen without anyone knowing they have been victimized.

Furthermore, Facebook has little in the way of important and close motivators to protect data once out of their hands. Such app creators and advertisers are the real paying customers of Facebook. The money comes from them. Suing the hands that feed you is very very difficult to do. Cutting them off from access to data means cutting them off from the revenue stream. Also, lawsuits are public knowledge. Lawsuits about data mishandling are going to destroy more of the product that Facebook sells (the alleged billions of users). With every news story people choose to leave and others choose to never sign up. Competitors such as Mastodon gain a stronger beachhead with their open-source non-profit system.

So, because Facebook can’t know about data mishandling and there are few proximal motivators for Facebook to try to know, they can’t be trusted. Even if Facebook made all kinds of very nicely worded rules about how naughty app creators will be if they mishandle data, they can’t be trusted because there is literally zero reason to trust them.

I had already decided to walk away from Facebook a month ago and I feel better about it as each news cycle unwinds.