Whatever Happens, You Cannot Say That You Were Not Warned

This blog’s been around for a while now, hasn’t it? During that time, I’ve made all sorts of prognostications regarding the future. Many of them have been proven wrong. One of them has been proven right. In August of 2014, I told you not to install Facebook Messenger on your phone. I made all sorts of paranoid predictions about what Facebook would do with the data. All of those predictions were correct.

Of course, it took Donald Trump to make that obvious.

Poor Facebook. As long as its robotic, unlikable founder (the subject of a radiant new Delicious Tacos post, by the way) and its insane narcissist of a chief operating officer were on board with the Single Party Program, all was well in the world. Facebook was widely praised as a way for young and old people alike to destroy the last vestiges whatsoever of their real-world relationships with family and friends by relentlessly politicizing every single possible aspect of human existence. The Obama campaign was the subject of a long, sloppy blowjob from WIRED over their data mining and persuasion tools. But then a firm called Cambridge Analytica figured out a way to trick people out of their contact information using a “personality quiz” — and they used that information to help target potential Trump voters.

The Obama campaign did something similar in 2012, but the difference was that their app was labeled pretty clearly as an Obama Election app. If you want to read a description of the differences, Politifact has a pretty decent one. It boils down to the idea that the Obama people knew they were handing their friends over to the Obama machine, while the Cambridge Analytica people didn’t know they were handing their friends over to the Trump machine.

It’s important to realize, however, that both apps met with Facebook’s approval and that neither of them violated the letter or the spirit of Facebook privacy policies. The only reason we are seeing a spotlight on this issue now is because the media has been desperate to explain how Hillary lost an election where she had a 98% prediction of success and the “RUSSIA DID IT” narrative is falling on hard times lately. Still, any reason to destroy Facebook and its zombie-like appetite for personal data is a worthwhile one, so I can’t complain too much.

One consequence of the new anti-Facebook focus has been that many people are finally realizing just how much of their data is in Facebook’s hands. In particular, the people who ignored me and installed Messenger anyway are finding out that it kept records of every call you ever made. Facebook knows who you called, and for how long. It also kept text message “metadata”. Does Facebook have recordings of your calls, or the content of your text messages? It’s impossible for us to know. Don’t bet against it.

It’s too late to keep all of that data out of Facebook’s hands, but you can protect yourself (and improve your life) by deleting Facebook immediately. Well, not immediately. You’ll want to obtain a copy of your Facebook archive first. Then you can quit Facebook for good. This site shows you how. I quit Facebook a while ago. That was a good idea. It gave me a lot of time back. It reduced the amount of time I spend having unproductive and negative interactions with people. I recommend that you do the same. You don’t have to take my advice — but as with my original Messenger post, you cannot say that you were not warned. Whatever Facebook does with your data, or does to your life, is on you from here on out.

35 Replies to “Whatever Happens, You Cannot Say That You Were Not Warned”

  1. bobbytables

    I deleted my Facebook around the same time as you… and recently made a new account. I’m about 10 years younger than you, not sure if age is relevant but not having Facebook essentially makes you a nonperson. Traditional forums have pretty much been replaced by facebook, and i don’t know a single person who uses secure messaging apps instead off whatsapp.

    • cwallace

      You’re right, not being on Facebook makes you a nonperson, full stop. My wife and I never had FB accounts, but she got recently to keep up with what’s going on in our neighborhood. There’s simply no other way to do it in 2018.

      Straight away FB started suggesting “friends” for her whom she’d never met, but were people I’d encountered years ago. And I mean, loosely encountered– a couple of people it suggested were ones I’d met in another country over a decade ago, and hadn’t contacted since.

      I apologize in advance for the gawker link, but this is a worthwhile article about how FB assembles duplicate profiles, even for people who’ve never used Facebook, like me.


  2. JustPassinThru

    I have been suspicious of the security both of these stupid Smartphones, and of the outfit I pithily rechristen Faceplant…but I lacked the technical knowledge to understand the specific risks or articulate them. I have never had a Faceplant account; right from the start, they wanted too much, promised nothing; and the discussions there were both noisy and pointless.

    I’m vindicated.

    In my early-retirement, I’ve been driving for Uber – and of course that necessitates a stupid smartphone. iGot an iPhone, mostly because – a reversal of trends – iSaved about half what an Android would cost.

    Although the performance with the Uber app is not as good – lots of glitches – I’m happy not to be delivered into the Jaws of Google. Moreover, after some experimenting with podcasts and streaming TV – both failures, mostly for the poor semirural network out here – I’ve just used the phone for Uber and personal calls.

    The personal calls will have to stop. So will the taking of this miserable thing…I’m now sorry I let my TracFone, with ten hours’ time on it, lapse on its renewal date.

    Unfortunately for me, I sometimes have to use Waze on the phone – a much better navigation tool than the Uber-native navigator. Better than my ten-year-old TomTom. But Waze was sold to Google…it all goes to the same metadata pit. There to be mined, decades later, if it becomes useful to the powers that be, however that might be.

  3. rwb

    It seems so easy to avoid these problems, by not being compelled to indulge.

    Really, who expected this would become anything else but a grand expedition for social data, after the draw of such instant validation was apparent?

  4. ScottS

    Jack, You are active on Instagram which is owned by Facebook. Are the privacy tradeoffs less with Instagram? I have been reluctant to set up an account on Instagram, but I am actively seeking alternatives to FB.

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      I use Instagram as basically a brand promotion for me as a writer and as a way for social-media-only people to contact me. I’ve found that it’s not nearly as immersive as Facebook and the application permissions are considerably less. It’s still a part of the Beast, so to speak, but a lesser part.

  5. Bigtruckseriesreview

    #1 Anything that can happen – Will Happen.
    #2 Any Computer network can be hacked – or misused from the inside by those with access.

    Imagine how many nude selfies, home-made porn videos, financial statements and dick pics Facebook had access to.

    #3 Social Media is ADDICTIVE – probably more psychologically addictive than most narcotics. I can’t even imagine how many restless nights, homicides, suicides, and crimes could be attributed to Facebook.

    The ABSOLUTE WORST thing these “parents” can do is give their kid a smartphone. Add to that the Facebook doesn’t force people to verify their age and you’ve got teenagers and preteens in a space where THEY SHOULDN’T BE.

    It always astounds me how I end up in chat lobbies and game chats with “children”. The things I’ve heard said to them. The things I’ve heard them say…

    Just imagine how many sext images Facebook had access to sent from one teenager to another.

    FACEBOOK is a DATA MINING OPERATION. And that’s why it deserves to be sued. Unfortunately it will also receive government oversight which means the government ill have more access to our privacy.

    I absolutely hope that rivals to Facebook (and Youtube) do pop up so that they lose their monopoly – but that doesn’t change the fact our privacy is still INSECURE.

    The smartest thing you can do is start a TROLL ACCOUNT or FAKE ACCOUNT (or both) and NEVER allow your true identity to be linked to them. The problem is, these damn apps scan your phone and location which almost ensures you can’t.

  6. John C.

    Not on facebook, no smart phone, a non person as above. However a father, husband, imperfect Christian, and a patriot. Come on in, the water is fine.

  7. Everybodyhatesscott

    I’m pretty sure messenger and fb came preinstalled on my new phone. I never installed after I read your post in 2014. Of course, Google is also tracking everything I do on my android phone and I’m not entirely sure they’re any less evil than facebook

    • dejal

      On my LG G6 , FaceBook is pre-installed and CAN’T be uninstalled.
      It is considered an integral System App.
      The best I can do is disable it. Not sure if that is a Google thing or a LG thing, locking it down to be undelete able.

      I have a Sony TV with built in Android TV. You have the ability to speak commands to it.
      I used an e-mail account to set everything up.
      Used the same email account for google on the phone.

      We all “know” this but don’t pay any attention to it. One day I’m looking through google history.

      6 months ago, when I said “G-D F’ing Sony TV with this F’ing voice command”, it was perfectly transcribed in my history.

      Also, I’m pretty sure if you use Google Photo to upload photos taken with the phone or whatever to “Share” with others ,social media or not, when you signed up you acknowledged that “sharing” was considered fair use and Google could do almost anything they want with the photos that you uploaded to their servers. I’m pretty sure the default value was every photo taken was to uploaded to their servers for my convenience. But, if I dug down 4 or 5 setting levels I could turn that off.

      I use the phone more for GPS, calendar and photo than anything else. Like JustPassinThru I have Tracfone and don’t talk much. But, the apps I do use still give them a boat load of info.

      Where I go, when I go, what I have coming up, what I take photos of are considered my property that they can have access to.

      The GPS apps want access to my Contacts and photos or the GPS app won’t work? WTF?
      For yucks, sometimes I use TOR on the phone. If someone looked at my Google history, they’d wonder (If I had location turned off) what I was doing in Iceland. I especially like it when you bring up google chrome and it comes up in the language of the location you are spoofing. Only downside is some of those VPNs are slow.

  8. T G Nelson

    Yes, I believe it all. In fact, on Saturday October 31st, 2016 about 8:30 PM Central time I got a call on my cell phone from a Mr. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin who asked me to call him Val.

    Val asked me to vote for Trump; so I asked Val “What’s it worth to you?”.

    Val said after the election if Trump was elected he’d put $2 million in my checking account if I voted for Trump.

    So, I said Val “How about half now and half November 8th and I’ll do it”. Val said okay,

    I picked up $2 million for voting for Trump – can you believe it?

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      Compared to what Bloomberg is paying to set up these SPONTANEOUS TEEN RALLIES FOR GUN CONTROL, your vote was a bargain!

      • safe as milk

        my daughter’s public school actually had the kids march around the block 17 times (for the parkland 17) during school hours. nobody but me seems to think this wrong. not wanting to be labeled a child killer, i’ve decided to keep my mouth shut.

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      He took the vast majority of his site offline and just left up the stuff he figured wouldn’t get him fired. Then something changed about his job and he restored some of the missing posts.

  9. tyates

    You know what was the funniest thing about the Ashley Madison hack? That 1200 of the accounts were from Saudi Arabia where adultery is punishable by death. Okay, well, its not laugh out loud funny, just sort of darkly humorous.

  10. Rock36

    I deleted Facebook about six weeks ago. I have not missed it for a second. I’ve curiously noticed that muscle memory and absent minded thinking led me to type in facebook.com into my browser, but that response is. Ow gone too.

    Every excuse I kept using for maintaining facebook (which were 90% the same excuses everyone elses uses) were totally unfounded

  11. Sean

    I’m keeping it for now. There aren’t many options for certain things. Stateline RallyX, Gambler 500, Honda 3 wheelers, and local classifieds are all pretty much FB only now. Yeah, there are websites or forums for some but there’s little to no activity and Craigslist has become a joke from Chicago to Dubuque.
    Now, If I were a world renowned author that has people calling day and night it might be a different story.

  12. sabotenfighter

    I wanted to comment on your last article for TTAC, but I no longer have access to my account. Actually haven’t since the password system change some time back. Don’t care enough to fix it.
    Anyway, the 19in brake issue. I have come across similar claims many many times. I figured it was a language difference problem and gave up fighting it after the fifth, but seeing that in an American company’s marketing materials… I guess it’s just ego of the engineers and carelessness/ignorance of the copy writers?
    I spent an hour with about 5 Japanese “writers” and “engineers” trying to explain that there is no way in hell the RC-F has 18in brakes and that I was uncomfortable writing that in internal marketing goods. I argued that it had brakes which could accommodate a minimum wheel size of 18in, but hey, I’m just a gaijin who worked for in a tech position in TMS for a number of years, fuck me, right?

  13. Athos

    I stopped using Bacefook ~a year ago. Had unfortunately touched that sewer a couple of times, but never as before. Will probably delte at some point. BEST.DECISION.EVER

    Now, last year I got a new Sony mobile, mostly because I smashed the screen of the previous Sony 3 times. On my old phone, I deleted the FB app. I cannot on this one, just disable it. The phone needs to be rooted to remove the app.

  14. hank chinaski

    All in all, the world may have been a better place if the twins had just beaten him to death with their sculls.

    When someone leaks the most sordid of what the Alexa/Echo/Nests have been mining from their users, now that will be funny.

  15. Dirty Dingus McGee

    I’m grateful I never dipped my toe into the Fecebook sewer. When MySpace first came out, I gave it a short try. Inside of a week, I had 40 people that wanted to be my friend, that I had no friggin clue who the hell they were. Quit that group/forum/whatever the hell it is, right then. When Fecebook came around, I figured it was just a souped up version of MySpace. It seems I was correct. Never joined or used anything on it. There have been occasions where a link brought me to a Fecebook page, which I quickly left. So there is a CHANCE they know who I am, albeit a slim one. As for that making me a “non person”, good. I have a phone (iPhone5 that does NOT have Fecebook installed) and email if folks want to get in touch with me. If I have lost contact with someone over the years, there is usually a compelling reason why. I don’t give a rats round ass about the folks I went to high school with; didn’t like most of them then, why would I now like them 43 years later?

    And get off my lawn.

  16. Booty_Toucher

    If you don’t think Google is doing the exact same thing with your emails, you’re fooling yourselves. The big questions is whether this story will have legs, or just be another flash in the pan. I suspect the latter. Personally, I love the negative attention Facebook has been getting, and I hope it does get applied to Google et al. The existing internet model where consumer attention and profiles are the payment system is extremely counterproductive.

  17. safe as milk

    i quit facebook several years ago but my twelve year old daughter recently signed herself up for an account. i asked her how she could sign up at 12? she said it’s easy, you just lie about your age. all her friends do it. i’m sure this is actually what fb wants kids to do. i have been warning her about social media forever so i was concerned about her fb account. she told me that she is very careful not to put any traceable or personal info on it. she signed up under a pseudonym. my wife does the same thing. i suspect that fb as figured out who they are anyhow. sigh…

  18. Eric H

    I’ve never had any use for social media and I probably never will.
    Never any Facebook, MySpace, Instagram, Snapchat or any of that crap.
    No gmail either. Also no credit cards.

    My only downfall to total anonymity is my unique surname. There’s six of us in North America and their all my family.

  19. totitan

    I’ve never had any problem with Facebook but I limit the amount of personal information that I put on it, and who can see it. I have been able to reconnect with quite a few old friends that I had lost track of and for that I am grateful. Also since I own two BMW diesels the North American BMW owners group is exceptionally good at sharing information and how to videos. Just like all of technology I view Facebook as just another tool that I can use. Until I see it as a threat I will continue using it

  20. Kevin Jaeger

    While I get a great deal of schadenfreude out of watching Zuckerberg squirm in spotlight for a change I have to say this latest hysteria is a pile of nonsense. From the beginning of Facebook it has been obvious that their entire business model was based on vacuuming up the details of your private life and using that info for their benefit.

    It’s hard to even grasp what the concept of a privacy violation even means when the entire business depends on users surrendering their privacy to Facebook and the other tech companies.

    If I understand the outrage correctly they think the platform is in some cases being used effectively by deplorables to advantage Trump, Brexit or other nefarious purposes, when they assumed all these Silicon Valley tech companies were wholly committed to the progressive cause. Forgive me if I don’t share in their current hysteria.

      • Kevin Jaeger

        This is just what they publicly admit that you’ve agreed to give them.

        I assume they also have a great deal of other data in their databases that they source from other pseudo-public sources – especially financial data.

  21. George Denzinger (geozinger)

    I use FB and have for about nine years. I initially resisted using it until the company I worked for closed suddenly. I was told by all of the “in the know” folks to get a FB account, to supplement your Linked In account. More people will see you, I was told. That’s been true, but in the nine years that I have been on FB, I’ve cycled through three companies, none of which used FB to find me. Actually, Linked In has been worthless in that respect too, I found my jobs the old fashioned way, I knew people who knew people.

    This whole business with data mining has been going on for years, the only new thing with this situation is the absolute amount of information that they (the marketers and others) have on you at a granular level. The best part is that they got it all for free. Well, not free, but definitely easily. Even before all of the latest revelations, I’d been scaling back the amount of stuff I was sharing on FB. I’ve clamped down even further in the last weeks, but in some ways I realize the effort is futile; the horse has been out of the barn for years now.

    I’m not entirely sorry that I have a FB account, I’ve managed to find old friends and keep up with family in Europe. That particular aspect was delightful for me, although a fair amount of my older relatives don’t read/write English, and my German, Croatian and/or Hungarian is awful. But it beats not hearing from them at all…

    We pay for everything, one way or another…


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