October 28, 2021

Why I Deleted Facebook And You Should Too

“If you don’t pay for the product, then you’re the product”
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I created my Facebook account early in 2013, back then I was a freshman starting college. In those moments it was normal to use Facebook to publish your personal life, share everything that passes through your mind and talk with friends and family. Today it remains the default choice, even in 2019, when people are noticing its decadence. I never saw Facebook as a company that makes profits through me and my data. I could never imagine that Facebook would have some much power under myself and other people, pushing us to take certain decisions, influencing our behavior and lifestyle.

Years passed, and while I was growing and getting an adult, I started discovering the evil monster behind the great white “f” over the blue background, the company founded by Zuckerberg. A lot of people have talked about this and the truth is that even today when we know about the implications that represent giving your privacy to a company, most of us still take non-seriously this issue nor the impact that we could experience over our lives in the future.

Let’s imagine that for years we have a secret spy following us everywhere we go, registering everything we do, exhaustively analyzing our behavior. Would we feel comfortable sharing our private life with an unknown person? This analogy is also explored in the “Amazon and data recollection” documentary, where it is explained how this company is also studying us to maximize their profits. They know too much about us, so much that they can chase us everywhere we go and know who we are, even if we don’t have created an account on their website.

My decision to delete my personal Facebook account arrives in a very special context for me, resulting in years of experiences that pushed me to decide this. Firstly, the real fact of being in the doors of a new “public life”, while being the co-founder of a tech company that we plan to take to the mainstream while placing a new statement in doing e-commerce (and hopefully we will make it). Personal life passes to a second plane when you’re building companies and, letting the public know too many details of your personal and private life could make us vulnerable to possible attacks. This is why you might not find too many personal profiles on Facebook belonging to serious founders, high-impact people, and instead, you might find their professional pages, managed by them or a team. The world is a cruel and complex place, filled with bad people that will harm you just because, yes, without a motive. This is a stronger reason to be even more insistent about taking our privacy and personal integrity seriously.

In the tech industry, we have a saying, “if you don’t pay for the product, then you’re the product”. Services like Facebook that tell you shamelessly that “it’s free, and it will always be” is a way to make us believe that we pay nothing when in real life we pay with what are the most important things people have: our decisions' freedom, and information. What will happen when these companies become even more capable to influence us to vote for political candidates or moving us inside strong social campaigns? What would happen when we became no longer capable to see the difference between an ads' announcement we’re forced to see and a legitimate publication? Will we keep our decision freedom, or this is actually a mere illusion today?

There are many attempts to build social networks more attached to the privacy-respect principle, like Minds and Openbook (which recently was renamed to Okuna because Facebook itself has registered the word “book”). We’ll see if those attempts results and a new era of privacy respect comes.

Screenshot, Okuna, formely Openbook

The process of “deleting” a Facebook account

Facebook accounts are really never deleted, all of your data remains forever in the company’s data centers, replicated through hundreds and thousands of servers, with many backups. Everything we have shared and given to Facebook will remain its property forever. Deleting an account actually means in fact hiding it from you and your friend/followers, because Facebook employees could keep accessing your information.

The experience of deleting a Facebook account is an intentionally hard, obfuscated, and difficult-to-find process that requires too many steps and inducts you the physiological feeling of wanting to go back. The biggest accomplishment that Facebook has made is actually to have been placed in the minds of millions of people, considering the app as one of their most important things in life, in a point in which a lot of them could feel depressed and uncomfortable when erasing their accounts and usually come back and reactivate. On Facebook, they know this, and they take advantage of that, showing you messages like this:

Screenshot, Facebook account “deleted”

“We hope you come back soon”, they tell you in a cynical and unashamed way, giving you up to 30 days to think about it. You can always go back to your account simply authenticating with your previous username and password, a very easy thing though (hard to delete, easy to recover). They don’t want to lose users, losing users is losing data sources and then losing profits. Facebook is just a business.

They don’t want you to know this

A few days ago I was thinking about writing this story, but back then I didn’t have enough strong arguments. I wanted to explore this deeper, so I tried to publish a post in the only space that attaches me to Facebook right now, my professional page, and this is what I wanted to publish:

You can not say “I deleted my Facebook account”

Two failed attempts marked this post as “violating our community rules about spam”, a ridiculous argument to not recognize they don’t want you to “talk badly about them in their own home”. In short words, you can not say on Facebook that you’ve deleted your personal account, if you want, try it.

Getting deeper into this, I discover that Facebook’s definition of spam is something like “Artificially increasing content distribution to make money”, “requiring people to like, share or recommend content before they can view it” or “Pretending to be someone else”. In none of these three cases, my post can be cataloged as spam. Then Facebook is contradicting itself.

Facebook definition of spam

An important detail

To people like me, who are only interested in taking advantage of Facebook’s “professional side” -which is frankly dying in consequence of the algorithm that the social network is using to position publications-, we’re currently forced to have a personal account to manage our Facebook pages and I had to create a new one. I’m not using it -and I will not- in a personal manner, it doesn’t have a profile photo, nor friends, nor publications. It is simply a ghost account, and it is really a pain that we’re forced to do this. Years ago, you could simply have a Facebook page without the need to have a personal account to manage it, but they discovered this was not resulting and decided to limit this option.

The terrifying thing about this issue is that when I created the new account, Facebook was recommending the same friends that I had in the previous account, the same places, the same pages and groups, everything. Resuming: they know who I am, even if I delete my account and create another, they always have ways to know who I am and then, they can reproduce the exact same previous experience.

Why delete Facebook, then?

Trusted sources demonstrated that Facebook’s app sends to the company’s servers all of your call logs, SMS logs, sessions duration, and a lot of data about your devices and life. The app consumes too much battery, mobile data volume and is also invasive about sending you notifications to keep you engaged.

At this time, Facebook doesn’t have too much to give, just letting you scroll in an infinite feed of most worthless posts, memes, low professionalism, and only personal stuff. Low-value content that gives nothing to people that are concentrated on building innovative and useful products to make this world a better place. The Facebook company knows this and that’s why they want to join their products into one and create a new whole experience, we’ll see if they achieve it and under which terms and conditions.

In any case, don’t gift your life to a stranger, choose to give more value to your privacy, and don’t be another victim, you might be on time.

Originally published on Sep 19, 2019 in Medium