Facebook just reported a massive data breach. Nearly 50 million accounts were affected by the breach, though it remains unclear whether the accounts were misused or if personal data was accessed. My account might be one of those affected. I know this, because when I went to check, Facebook had logged me off. At which point, my face fell onto my keyboard, drooling a bit from one side or the other. I’ve been dealing with bullshit from this company for years. I’m over it.
It’s been almost 15 years that I’ve had a Facebook profile. I joined in college, like a lot of people my age, and at the time, Mark Zuckerberg liked to refer to the website as a directory. That’s how folks used it in the early days, too. If you joined Facebook in 2004, like I did, all you could really do on Thefacebook dot com was add some contact information and a profile pic. This was great at the time, because making a personal website still felt difficult for a lot of people and Facebook made it easy for you to at least announce yourself on the web.
A lot has happened since then. Facebook has grown into one of the most powerful and secretive companies in the world. Mark Zuckerberg, once a sweaty and publicly struggling CEO, is now one of the richest men on Earth. Facebook has about 2.23 billion users worldwide, and the company has been implicated in fueling genocide, violating users’ privacy, sharing private user data recklessly, spreading fake news, and destroying American democracy. That’s the short list, too.
All that and now this news that Facebook can’t keep tens of millions of accounts out of the hands of hackers? I’m honestly exhausted. Over the years and years I’ve been using Facebook, it’s always seemed like the social network has been taking more from me and giving less.
Well, I guess it’s technically been giving more to advertisers, but me, I feel like I’m getting screwed. Like many things on the internet, Facebook is a free service that I’m welcome to use if I give the company an untold amount of my personal information. When the Cambridge Analytica scandal grew to a head a few months ago, it felt worrisome that Facebook had let that data find its way into bad places. With this recent breach, however, it seems clear that Facebook can’t event protect my data when it’s trying to. The company admitted that the access tokens (i.e. bits of code that hackers could use to take over accounts) of 50 million people had been compromised in this most recent breach. Facebook reset the access tokens of an additional 40 million uses as a “precautionary step,” after learning about the breach. Either way, I’ve been logged out of Facebook absolutely everywhere and very much feel like the victim of a hack.
This sucks. I made my Facebook account private a long time ago, and since then, I’ve realized that preventing random people on the internet from accessing my private data does not prevent Facebook from getting it and sharing it with advertisers. After hearing the news of the recent data breach, I started deleting as much personal information from Facebook as possible, though I realize that deleting stuff from my profile does not necessarily mean that Facebook won’t be able to track me in the future. I could delete my Facebook account entirely, and it wouldn’t affect my daily life all that much, since I never look at my News Feed and almost never post updates. Yet somehow, there’s this weird anxiety about not existing on Facebook. This is how it must have felt not to be in the phone book a few decades ago.
So I’ll keep my profile, but I’m nuking everything about it. After the Cambridge Analytica Scandal earlier this year, I revoked access to my Facebook profile from almost every app I’d ever used, which felt great and didn’t affect my daily life at all. Now, I find myself deleting as much information from my profile as I can, even if the hackers already got it and it doesn’t matter. I’ve also started using Privacy Badger, a Chrome extension built by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to block invisible tracking.
The fact that I’m not deleting my profile is perhaps a point of pride. I like the point made by Siva Vaidhyanathan in the New York Times a few months ago—this idea that we shouldn’t delete our Facebook profiles but instead rise up as users to challenge the company’s untested dominance. I want to keep an eye on Facebook, and the vantage point of being a user (albeit an inactive one) might be valuable in the future.
But if I’m talking about participating in Facebook’s game—in giving the social network more of my information to lose or sell or worse—I’m done with that. This new posture of mine in defiance of Facebook also means that I should back away from Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. And I will. I’ll do it just like Instagram’s founders did a few days ago. Apparently, they didn’t like the way Facebook was exploiting them. Neither do I.