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.