Facebook

Everybody uses Facebook, right? Read on to find out why that isn't an excuse to use it, and why Facebook has engineered their "service" to keep you hooked.
 

Ditch Facebook

Everybody uses Facebook, right? It’s fun, casual, and all your friends and family are on it. If you remember the Facebook of ~10 years ago, you might notice that it’s a bit different now. Back then you could check it maybe once a day or once every few days and get caught up on everything important. Nowadays, however, we’re more inclined to check Facebook or other social media multiple times throughout the day. Read on to find out why that’s a bad thing, and why Facebook has engineered their “service” to keep you hooked.

Broad Picture

Facebook uses the data that you voluntarily provide, along with the data they collect from your internet browsing habits (more on this later), to create a profile that describes everything about you. They sell access to this profile to advertisers. These advertisers then deliver “targeted” ads to you. Facebook isn’t always responsible with this data, evident in their security breaches and stolen user information.

Your Voluntary Contribution

Whether you were conscious of it or not, you’ve been freely feeding a lot of your information to Facebook for years. As the service has changed, new “features” have encouraged additional sharing to build a better advertisement profile. Let’s break it down.

Likes

When you first create a Facebook account, they ask you to fill out some personal information. Every service needs the basics, but Facebook quickly extends this to your favorite books, movies, TV shows, artists, hobbies, etc. Seems harmless, right? All your friends can see your favorite book! How fun! On one hand, that’s true and great, but Facebook now knows that you like Sci-Fi movies and TV shows. This information is invaluable to Ridley Scott’s marketing team trying to promote his new movie. If you love Ridley Scott movies, great! You’ll soon start to see ads for the new one. If you hate his movies (shame on you), you’ll most likely be frustrated in the next week or so as you start seeing ads for the 3rd prequel to Alien.

Photos

Everyone is familiar with the “photo dump.” Whether it’s prom, a fun vacation, or a new puppy, you’re bound to take loads of pictures and dump them all in a Facebook album for your friends to see.

Let’s take prom as an example.

You post a picture of the group and make sure to tag everyone so the picture will be shared on their wall as well. Different pictures from different angles are posted as part of your dump. While it’s useful and convenient for everyone in the picture to have access, you’ve just given Facebook’s facial recognition software loads of data on who is who. Multiply this by the thousands of pictures you’ve posted and tagged (and that you’ve been tagged in) and they can certainly pick your face out of a crowd.

How could they use this data?

  • Working with law enforcement to identify you in security camera footage (hopefully you didn’t break any laws)
  • Serving you personalized ads when you walk past a camera-equipped billboard in the mall
  • They now own data that makes your face unique. This is your personal biometric data. It’s as important as a fingerprint. If it get’s stolen, that’s bad news.

Location

Ever gotten a notification to “Check-in” to a place on Facebook? That’s because you’ve given them 24-hour access to your exact GPS coordinates. They now know every store you shop at, every restaurant you eat at, every entertainment event you attend. Do you really want someone knowing (and keeping history of) where you are at all times?

Who cares?

Individually, each of those categories might not seem too bad. Together, they serve as the perfect collection of everything about you. If this data is stolen, someone could easily learn your daily routine and impersonate you.

Your Involuntary Contribution

Ready for the scary stuff? Even if you aren’t logged-in to Facebook, they’re still collecting data on you via cookies, trackers, and fingerprinting.

Visit the Internet Tracking page to read up on what these things mean and how you can protect yourself against them.

Anytime you see a Facebook ‘Like’ button on a website, Facebook code is embedded in that site’s code. By using trackers, cookies, and fingerprinting (or any combination of the three), Facebook knows that you’re on that website and what you’re doing there.

This all happens without your permission

Psychological Manipulation

Facebook hires neural engineers to make their service more addicting. They employ tactics used in Vegas casinos to keep you on their service for longer and keep you coming back more frequently. These engineers target specific parts of your brain to engage you and create a dependency on Facebook within you. For example:

  1. You post a new picture on Facebook (or Instagram, which Facebook owns)
  2. You get a few likes in the first 5 minutes
  3. You check 30 minutes later and you only have 35 likes! Oh no!
  4. 5 minutes later you check again and you’ve gotten 20 more likes. Phew!
  5. You’re now checking every 5 to 10 minutes to see if the likes are still coming in
  6. Hooked.

This process is one example of how Facebook (and Instagram) is designed to keep you coming back. They target the parts of your brain that crave attention, and reward your usage with little ❤️ s and 👍 s.

What Do They Have on Me?

There is an easy way to find out what data Facebook has on you. Fair warning: it’s a little creepy. For instance, they know how long and where I was on Facebook on March 27th in 7th grade. Why do they need that information on a 13 year old? Steps are as follows:

> Log into Facebook

> Navigate to Settings

> Your Facebook Information

> Download Your Information

> View

> Change download settings

> Choosing ‘HTML’ will download information as webpages. These files will open in your default browser (I recommend this format)

> Create File

It will take Facebook minutes to hours to compile all your data, depending on how much they’ve got on you. They’ll send you an email when it’s all ready, then you can follow these steps.

> Navigate back to Download Your Information

> Available Files

> Download and enter your password

You’ll now get a large .zip file that, when unzipped, has everything that Facebook has ever collected from you.

Delete Your Account

By this point, you should be convinced to delete your account. The good thing is, you’ve already got all your photos, statuses, and messages downloaded so you can keep them for later.

Deleting your account should be as simple as going through settings and clicking delete, right? Wrong. Remember when you made a Spotify account and clicked ‘Login with Facebook’? You need to unlink all your accounts from Facebook. This is easier said than done.

The General Process

While every service is different, you can generally follow the same process to unlink from Facebook (and Google while you’re at it). We’ll use GroupMe as an example.

  • Login to your account and click on your profile. You should see a page that looks like this:

  • At the bottom, it will have your connection to Facebook.
  • Remove this connection and make sure you can login with an email address and password.

For more information on password generation, visit the Passwords section of the guide.

You’ll follow this general process for most of your connections. Few (notably Spotify) require you to contact customer service if you want to keep your account.

How Do I Know What Is Connected to Facebook?

From Facebook:

  • Settings
  • Apps and Websites

Anything here is linked with your Facebook and will be deleted when you delete your Facebook if you don’t create an alternative login (like we did with GroupMe) and unlink the account.

Spotify

Any Spotify account created through Facebook cannot be converted to a regular account on your own. If you delete your Facebook, you’ll lose:

  • Your followers and who you follow
  • Your playlists
  • Any recommendations that Spotify has made for you

To get this migrated over, you’ll need to contact customer support. They were very helpful with me and responded quickly. I mentioned that I didn’t like the security practices of Facebook and didn’t want to have to quit using Spotify because it was linked with Facebook. They were more than happy to migrate the account and all its data over to a “new” account that is based on an email address.

Actually Deleting Your Account

You’ve done all the prep, unlinked your accounts, and downloaded a copy of your data. You’re all ready to delete your account!

> Settings

> Your Facebook Information

> Delete Your Account and Information

> Delete My Account

> Enter your password

> Continue

> Delete Account

Now the important part comes.

Your account will be put in a temporary deactivation state

This lasts for ~14 days and if you log back in at any time, it will reactivate your account and you’ll have to do the last step again.

After 14-30 days (this is a soft estimate, it’s best to assume the latter or greater), your account, and all data associated with it should be deleted from Facebook. This is the most we can currently do, as we don’t know what Facebook actually does behind the scenes. If you try and login at this point, you should get an error and there won’t be an account linked to your email address.


Congrats! You’ve successfully disconnected yourself from one of the biggest social media giants out there. Enjoy your freedom!

Don’t Stop Here

Learn More!

The Need for a VPN

Imagine this: You’re in a coffee shop and they have free (unsecured) WiFi. You can browse without needing a password, but so can everyone else. With the right tools, anyone could intercept your data. An easy (and cheap) way to prevent this, is the use of a VPN.

Internet Tracking

Whether you know it or not, you’re being followed on the internet. Most people have a general knowledge of this, but don’t know the full extent. When you go online, you’re leaving behind more than just your internet security.

Email

In this section, we’re going to learn about good alternatives to Gmail, Yahoo!, Hotmail (really?), and other data-leaching email providers. Not sure why to quit using Gmail? Check the Google section of the guide for more info.