The sense of violation is almost palpable. What we have suspected – what some of us have warned of – for many years, is now transparently true, and on the pages of newspapers around the world: Facebook has not just been using us, it has been abusing us. As I said in 2011, we have surrendered ‘our personal data and the conduct of our friendships and (online) social ties to their marketplace’ and they have made their money off our backs.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal, broken by The Guardian following the extraordinary investigative journalism of Carole Cadwalladr, is opening up a can of worms for Mark Zuckerberg, who, after several days of complete silence, has finally, tersely, admitted that Facebook has been guilty of a ‘breach of trust’ – though it is clearly a ‘scandal of Facebook’s own making.’
Gathering momentum – though there is no way of telling yet how successful it will be – is a movement to #deleteFacebook. With the aid of a Chrome browser extension, all the posts of the past years can be deleted from one’s account, (although the script takes a few hours to run). Thus, although the profiling already achieved on the data already given to Facebook cannot be undone, that data can be withdrawn so that it can no longer be used, and one’s account no longer logged into, no longer used, eventually (after their 90day delay) completely deleted. There are plenty of other means of sharing online – with our privacy intact. Facebook has breached our trust, and does not deserve our data any more – if it ever did.
In a matter of a week or two, the four-week diary studies for this project will begin, and one question we will be asking our participants is simply this: “How do you feel about the way Facebook tricked you into feeling safe about giving up all your data to it? How do you feel about how they then used it underhandedly to make money out of you, and to allow others to use your data for electoral manipulation? How do you feel about how they have handled the fallout from these revelations? Have you deleted your Facebook posts, or your account?”