You may have heard some rather bad news concerning Facebook and user data lately. The company has been attributed to allowing over 80 million user’s data be acquired through a 3rd party firm called Cambridge Analytica. This information was then followed by users researching their own profile data and finding that Facebook had been stockpiling texts and phone numbers via Facebook Messenger.
And then…it was leaked that Facebook’s founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, had his Messenger data deleted from the company servers. The last one was conveniently spun by PR as a beta test that would soon make it to “normal” users, but, come on, it looks really bad!
Here’s the thing. I don’t care that Facebook collects data on me and my online life. I really don’t. It’s not a new thing. Your online data and habits are currency within the new world that is the internet. But that’s where my relationship with Facebook starts to fall apart. My data is money, and as such, I expect it to add value to my daily life in some way. I also have the expectation that it will be handled responsibly by the companies I’ve entrusted it with. I trust a bank with my money and my online information should be treated similarly.
Currently, Facebook fails at both of these.
Some will counter this opinion with “Google does the same thing!” That’s a perfect comparison… to prove my point. Facebook and Google both make a living out of mining data from their users to better develop ads for those same users. It’s an old tactic that Google has been using far longer than Facebook. Unfortunately, the track records are far from the same. I’ve never felt that Google has been loose with what they are doing with my data. With a few exceptions like monitoring public WiFis without divulging it first, Google has never had a large issue with its public image surrounding data. So far, they’ve given me no reason to think that there’s a random 3rd party app with enough permission to actively use my data in a way that rivals the recent ones Facebook has found themselves mixed up with.
Another counter to the Google comparison is that Google adds legitimate value back to my data. They are able to provide me with high-quality free services in return. Gmail, Docs, Photos, and Maps are all available for no monetary investment on my part due to allowing Google to collect my information. I’m OK with that. Facebook, on the other hand, doesn’t offer me the same. I used to like their website for reuniting with high school friends, but that fades more and more with each day with the service flooded with political and often fake links. With the exception of Messenger, I don’t get any real value app from the Facebook brand directly.
Facebook’s reputation has taken a hit with me and it’s quickly coming to the point that I feel the need to delete my account. They have treated my data too loosely for too long now and something needs to change. The company claims those changes are coming, but it may be too late to persuade me to stay. They’ve proven that my data is all they want with next to nothing to barter with me in exchange. Even Messenger is becoming more of an avenue to serve me up more ads. Mark Zuckerberg and his team need to find a way to prove to myself, and all their users, that Facebook takes their data seriously and that they have a responsibility to secure it better even though they have business interests to manage. I need to start seeing an added value to have them continue to hold my money.