Yes, I use Facebook and I’m deleting their apps

Take a moment to peruse the story about Cambridge Analytica. One outcome of that is that I remain a Facebook user but their apps and data are removed from my phone. I recommend all people I know to delete their apps. Here's why.

Control what you share

I use Facebook for a number of reasons.

  1. My extended family uses it. I love my family, (yes, even you and especially YOU) and they use Facebook. As far as I am aware, my family extends from Puerto Vallarta in Mexico to Puerto Rico to parts of Asia and Europe. This is a very 21st century thing and it works.
  2. Many of my school friends use it and I like to maintain some form of contact with those people. I went to school with some very cool folks. 
  3. Support groups. I'm a 3D printer user (I can stop at any time, I am not an addict) and some of the most effective sources of information are on Facebook.
  4. SOCIAL ISSUE AWARENESS! That one deserves a shout. Many people organize and discuss issues that are important to me. Like it or not, my Facebook feed is a source of information about many topics. Gun control articles? Check. Liberal causes? Check. Funny kitten videos? Check, Check.

All that is valid and anything I put on Facebook I do so with full knowledge and forethought. When I upload an image, video, comment or post to Facebook I know what I'm doing. That is no longer something I control once I do that.

When I share something on Facebook I expect it to be innocuous. My phonebook isn't that.

What else is Facebook obtaining that I don't control?

Visit your Facebook settings page and download a copy of your data from Facebook. You can do so via this link. https://www.facebook.com/settings

Depending on how much data you've shared, that can take a while. Mine took 10 minutes before Facebook notified me the download was ready.

Download and extract that zip archive. Open the index.htm file with your browser and click the Contacts Info link. My whole smart phone address book there. This wasn't somehow cross indexed from other users, I 100% never gave Facebook my cellphone number. If they got that, it wasn't from me.

They have the number of my employer's travel booking hotline. Really? I only added that a few weeks ago when I had to fix some work travel bookings in a hurry.

They could have easily gotten my own moble number from users who mistakenly uploaded that via the Facebook Messenger app as apparently I did. I'm reasonably sure that is how Facebook harvested my phone's data.

This is something that I take great care to not do. That's a line too far for me to cross and I do not want Facebook, or any social media site to get phone numbers, names and email addresses from me. I routinely tell the LinkedIn app the same thing: stop asking for that info.

And yet, there is my phonebook in my Facebook data download. I've tried to eliminate it from Facebook and I have not succeeded yet.

They know which apps I've installed too

Now visit the Applications link on your downloaded data. That is a historical list of applications on phones that I've wiped and disposed of years ago.

There's even more there about what ads I've looked at, etc. but I'm OK with those. I don't mind anyone tracking what I do on their site. It's not my site and that I can retrieve that data is a good thing. I don't think Facebook is "E-V-I-L" but when it comes to data collection I think they're stunningly blind to what they are doing.

"You are not a Facebook user, you are a Facebook product."

That's entirely correct and I don't disagree with that.

In the United States, data belongs to the person who collected it. That may not be true in other countries but within the U.S. that is 100% correct. This will not change as our government historically puts companies before people.

In Europe and other places, that isn't always the case. There are penalties for this sort of behavior. What I explicitly share on a site is acceptable. What the site backdoors from me is not.

I'll keep using Facebook from a web browser for now but there's no way I'll trust them on my phone again.

I want that contact data removed from Facebook. I want to believe that Facebook will honor that wish. But I have no reason to believe that they will do so.

You see, Mark Zuckerberg's statement isn't about Cambridge Analytica abusing user data. It's about how someone beside Facebook did that and was caught. It's just public relations now. If you are aware of that and are careful then you may want to keep using Facebook for now. But not on a phone, that trust has just gone out the window.

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