Delete your Facebook

Facebook has been caught allowing the personal data of fifty million users — 50,000,000 — get siphoned off by political data company Cambrige Analytica and hiding it until it knew the story would come out in the press.

From The New York Times:

As the upstart voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica prepared to wade into the 2014 American midterm elections, it had a problem.The firm had secured a $15 million investment from Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, and wooed his political adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, with the promise of tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior. But it did not have the data to make its new products work.So the firm harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, according to former Cambridge employees, associates and documents, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network's history. The breach allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump's campaign in 2016.

From The Observer:

Christopher Wylie, who worked with a Cambridge University academic to obtain the data, told the Observer: "We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people's profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis the entire company was built on."Documents seen by the Observer, and confirmed by a Facebook statement, show that by late 2015 the company had found out that information had been harvested on an unprecedented scale. However, at the time it failed to alert users and took only limited steps to recover and secure the private information of more than 50 million individuals.

Back to the New York Times:

[Dr. Kogan] ultimately provided over 50 million raw profiles to the firm, Mr. Wylie said, a number confirmed by a company email and a former colleague. Of those, roughly 30 million — a number previously reported by The Intercept — contained enough information, including places of residence, that the company could match users to other records and build psychographic profiles. Only about 270,000 users — those who participated in the survey — had consented to having their data harvested.

Basically, if you took one of the surveys, your data was taken. Worse, the discrepancy between the 270,000 users who participated in the surveys and the 50,000,000 who had their data taken is because Facebook didn't just allow access to the survey-takers, but to the friends of the survey-takers as well.

It is, in a word, horrific. The only thing more horrifying is that this isn't unusual when it comes to big internet companies. It's becoming desensitizingly normal.

See more

It's the reason why I try, as much as is possible, to never post or share anything personal on any social network or search company. Any company that's business model is predicated on harvesting and hoarding my data.

Because you can't trust them.

See more

You can't trust the company — who knows who will own or run them, at the executive or government level, at any given time? — and you absolutely can't trust every single employee that can gain access to your personal data that they've harvested and hoarded. We've seen those types of abuses with everything from the NSA to Uber.

How to delete your Facebook account

The only thing you can trust is a company not having your data, encrypting it end-to-end so even the company itself can't get access to your data, or deleting your data as fast as possible because its business model doesn't depend on exploiting your data over time.

It's been said many times before but it takes a while to sync in: The cloud is just someone else's computer. If you're giving up your data or attention in exchange for free social, mail, messaging, photograph, document, or other transit or storage, then you're really just taking the drive from your computer, unencrypted, and mailing it to those companies to do with it whatever they will.

See more

Our data is so valuable to the big internet companies that they spend billions and billions of dollars creating and maintaining these free services just to get it. So valuable they spend billions mapping it into social graphs and deep knowledge systems. They do it because they make untold billions more selling ads and "insight" against it.

And while doing so, leaving open to just these kinds of abuses.

See more

In a perfect world, regulation like what the EU is imposing might chill the worst of the abuses. Fines, so terrible that even the biggest internet giants would be hurt by them, could chill it further. But it feels like we live across the known universe from such a world.

These companies are so big, so international, so intertwined in the internet, that it might be too late for regional authorities to curtail them anyway. (In fact, many seem to prefer to work with them — Facebook and other internet companies have been accused of far worse abuses in far more totalitarian states anyway.)

The only thing we can do to protect ourselves — the only thing we can do to hurt them — is to stop giving them our data.

It's not a perfect solution. Your friends, family, and colleagues who use the services will still channel your data right to them. The big aggregation firms will still collect and sell it. But you'll make it harder for them. You'll affect their numbers and you'll hurt their stats.

The only thing we can do is delete Facebook. And Messenger, and Whatsapp, and Instagram, and every app like them.

We can send a message — that we won't go quietly into the dying of our rights.

○ Video: YouTube
○ Podcast: Apple | Overcast | Pocket Casts | RSS
○ Column: iMore | RSS
○ Social: Twitter | Instagram

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Not to mention Facebook is aggressively trying to silence conservative viewpoints. And why does this site not work in Safari on iPhone? I have to use the Puffin browser for things to work.
  • I decided to leave social media a while ago....deleted facebook, Insta, twitter and everything else I used. One of the best decisions I have made. And in regards to this website, maybe...just maybe they will realized the format and compatibility issues are one of the reasons, readers have gone somewhere else.
  • I hate this website on Safari for iOS...I get annoying ads that I have to kill the entire app and most of the time won't come back to finish the article until I am at a computer. I know ads pay the bills but man, someone needs to regulate that ish.
  • Use an ad/content blocker, that's what I do, I agree with you
  • Ex-Obama Campaign Director Drops Bombshell Claim on Facebook: 'They Were on Our Side' "...they allowed us to do things...because they were on our side."
  • It is 100% ok as long as the GOP/Republicans aren't the ones doing it. This has been going on for years on both sides (and not just with facebook), but since these, and many other sites are against anything Trump, it gets turned into sensationalized headlines.
  • "The only thing we can do is delete Facebook. And Messenger, and Whatsapp, and Instagram, and every app like them." Correct. as long as people use these services nothing will change. I'm shocked that anyone is shocked by what FB did. Has FB EVER had a reputation for being above board with it's users data?
  • I don't think FB has ever had a reputation, period. Every time people hear about Facebook buying a company, people never see that as a good thing, and it usually isn't.
  • "The only thing we can do is delete Facebook. And Messenger, and Whatsapp, and Instagram, and every app like them." In what way is this feasible? Furthermore, how is it sustainable for businesses in todays digital age? I don't use Facebook. I deleted mine long ago. But I would be silly not to recognize the influence social media has in todays society from everything ranging from entertainment, education, advertising/marketing, sales and more. You're being rather extreme without considering how that will play into other areas such as cell phones. The primary applications used on smart phones are social media apps. Without those, why would the majority even continue with a smartphone?
  • It's not like social media is the only place businesses collect information about you either. This happens outside of the digital world too, but at the end of the day my general rule is just don't put information you consider private on there. My Facebook doesn't contain my address, payment information or phone number. Sure they have a lot of other info about me, like what I'm interested in, but not anything I'm too worried about
  • >My Facebook doesn't contain my address, payment information or phone number. Your outward facing profile doesn’t, but I’d bet anything that at least one of your friends has shared their address book to FB, and they’ve applied your address and phone number to your profile. I would delete Facebook if it was a viable way to wipe my information out of it, but it’s just not that easy. We need a real way to opt out.
  • You’re assuming they would have my address or phone number to begin with, which none have my address, and very few have my number and have never allowed fb to search their contacts. Either way, I delete my FB long ago but man, really Rene??
  • I think you're either lying or being ignorant if you think you've never given your address out to a friend, and they haven't saved it to their address book for future reference (as if you'd know). You can be in a stranger's picture and Facebook will still register you being there via face matching and geolocation data in the file (time, date, coordinates/place). Re: address/number... Even I do that when I go to parties, etc. for the same of convenience. Many people give these apps unfettered access to their devices, and don't even bother reading the permissions. This is why companies like Apple, Samsung removed the social connections they had recently bakes into their mobile operating systems (Microsoft was first doing this). Chances are high thay they have all of that information, and Facebook creates shadow profiles of people who aren't and have never even be on Facebook based on the information others post or add to their devices/profiles about them. It cross references this between other posts, profiles, etc, so they are actually quite accurate. If you never join it's still there, and it's like breadcrumbs. If you do join, then your profile will get matched with the shadow profiles, probably pretty quickly. It's a ridiculous surveillance machine - one that people voluntarily opt into. It's completely exploitative and does nothing but pit people against each other and create social u rest, resentment, etc. It allows ideas those in charge agree with to flourish, while censoring g others; so it's very political. This ability gives them extreme political power, as well. The control they have over access to their platform allows them to have huge influence on public policy, bribe politicians, etc. This is why Google and other companies have tried so hard to break into this area (Google has, with YT, IMHO), and why Facebook pays ridiculous sums to ourchase services that can augment the core Social Network (Insta, WhatsApp, etc. - monopolizing the market as much as they can). Facebook is not a problem, per we. The fact that this no competition, really is a problem. That is partly the fault of users. I don't use Facebook. It's actually quite anti-social. People virtue signal and self-censor just so they can feel proud and accepted in their echo Chambers. I like to learn from people, not simply agree with them or be branded a pariah.
  • Facebook has competition, but you'll be at the mercy of convincing your friends to regularly use said service. My main social network is Twitter, which I use through Tweetbot which cuts all the crap and ads that come along with the main website/app, it just gives you pure Twitter. If they ever disallow third-party Twitter clients, I'll move to something else
  • There is no real competition for Facebook. People flocked to one service at the expense of others. The bigger co petites mostly died off or were super niches (Google+). The smaller competitors are almost forgotten (Path).. Twitter is not a Facebook competitor, IMO. I Facebook is ruining this market, anyways, because it's setting a bad customer perception and expectation. That's probably not a bad thing, though. The internet is becoming more dangerous than real life because of poor to non-existent laws to empower users and allow them to control what companies collect, store, use, and how it's used. Can barely opt out of this. Surfing privately is like going to work, now.
  • I quit Facebook several years ago, despite it being a very convenient way to keep up with friends and family from whom I live far away. The "privacy" terms and conditions kept changing, and it became clear that the company exists SOLELY to harvest users' data. It soured me so much on social media that I refuse to sign up for all of the other "services". But beyond what some would consider simple paranoia, I just don't trust that system breaches won't compromise my data. For instance, I had a Yahoo! account since basically day one of its existence. But after one too many major breaches -- and a long delay in informing users of it --, I just closed that account. I am willing to accept some risk with respect to my personal data (otherwise you just cannot use the internet), but my tolerance is pretty low. And it's zilch for companies like Facebook, Instagram, etc., despite how alluring the services actually are. There is very little impetus for them to consider the protection of your data as as priority number one.
  • A lot of it depends on what data you put on there. My Facebook contains pictures of me, my name and age, who my friends are, but apart from those things nothing else really too private. If someone gains access to my Facebook data, I wouldn't be too worried, it hasn't got my address, my phone number, or any payment information. They might get some info used for target advertising like what articles I've clicked on, but again I'm not too bothered about that.
  • I quit facebook 5 years ago. I don't really miss it at all. TBH I'm really not sure how I would have time for it.
  • It's not like something you have to dedicate your life to, I scroll down maybe for 5 minutes 4 or 5 times a day max, or check a notification when it comes through (I don't get loads). But if you don't miss it, then there's no need to waste any time :)
  • Why is WhatsApp considered "Social Media"? In my usage of it, it is used as a messaging tool, as is GroupMe and even iMessage. At what point does messaging cross into social media?
  • When it's purchased by Facebook? But I believe WhatsApp utilizes E2E encryption similar to iMessage. So admittedly, I'm not sure why it's included in this.
  • Yeah it uses E2E encryption, so Facebook has no access to your messages even if they own it
  • Hmm I see. We would hope so, anyhow.
  • Well it would defeat the point of E2E encryption, E2E (End-to-End) means only 2 parties can decrypt the messages, which is the sender and the receiver
  • Yes. Rene I totally agree with you.
  • Never had a FB account. Too many bad rumors about the founder. Never had a Twitter account. RSS is alive and well. Blogs I have had, but a lot of services shut down after the fad of it faded.
  • Yes, to funnel you to Tumblr. You can always run your own website and blog, BTW. I like reading more than 200 characters in a site that doesn't require me to log in to comment.
  • I did not trust FB and other social media sites way back in the beginning. As time went on, I mistrusted them even more, and for good reasons, I feel any way. Thusly, I have never, ever, had a social media account. And I don’t miss it, obviously. Most importantly. I have zero intent, or interest, to establish an acccoumt with any of them. Not ever.
  • Rene... Great Vector. This was a legitimate and timely piece that we all need take real into consideration.
  • "It's the reason why I try, as much as is possible, to never post or share anything personal on any social network or search company. Any company that's business model is predicated on harvesting and hoarding my data. Because you can't trust them." Thing is, you don't even need to post it...
  • Social Media will be the eventual downfall of mankind. The place where people with no spine can be a tough guy. Where cowards feel safe in bullying bigger cowards and the place where facebook becomes a legitimate source of news
  • To be fair newspapers in the UK have always been considered a legitimate source of news, and that's laughable. Newspapers like The Daily Mail are about as believable as a flat earth. There's always been fake news somewhere, be smart and continue using reliable sources.
  • But everyone was OK with Facebook openly helping Obama win. Hypocrites much?
  • I mean it's still wrong, but you can clearly see why people would be happier about Obama winning
  • You're making no sense. He was as bought a politician as any. I'm getting the feeling some people commenting on these things are not informed Americans, or American at all. Look how corrupt his Justice Department was, at his direction. Did nothing but then the country into a steaming stew of race hatred. I'm frequently surprised by the useless stuff my friends in Europe ask me about, which they hear on mainstream news channels there. And the Clinton's are looked at like a Crime family by many people here. I don't think Europeans have a clue, because the press there have uniformly been pro-Hillary... As of most Americans care about a continent that does nothing but insult us... We certainly won't vote in their interest. Europeans on Twitter were acting like we should have cast their vote, after the results came in - comically.