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Cambridge Analytica scandal: Are we ready to #DeleteFacebook and move on?

The Cambridge Analytica fiasco is only part of how personal data can be used.

Anwesha Madhukalya | March 21, 2018 | Updated 19:14 IST
Cambridge Analytica scandal: Are we ready to #DeleteFacebook and move on?
PC: Reuters

A couple of years ago while taking a break during office hours, I found myself checking Facebook on my office computer. I was checking the photos a close friend had uploaded of a recent trip, when I involuntarily picked up my phone and opened Facebook on it too. Who checks Facebook simultaneously on two devices unless you are addicted to the site? After mulling over that seemingly-harmless but jarring incident, I decided to deactivate Facebook and take some time off. It seemed like a job well done, so I patted my back and called it a day. The following days were what can only be best described as a test of my endurance. The feverish pitch of the voice telling me to open Facebook just so I can check that cute cat video could only have been drowned by an equally fierce "DO NOT DO IT!"

I stayed away from Facebook for a record three months.

I also eventually ended up making 'Facebook deactivation' an annual ritual, sometimes even deactivating twice. It was like my own personal biennale. Nevertheless, these retreats would end up the same way - me coming back to Facebook.

It certainly is not an easy task. It is also probable that a lot of people share a tumultuous, love-hate relationship with Facebook like I do. With Facebook taking over social media platforms like Instagram and WhatsApp, one can't really escape the reach of this Goliath. So, what to do and where to go if we #DeleteFacebook?

In the wake of accusations on Cambridge Analytica, livid users are urging others to delete their Facebook accounts. Cambridge Analytica has been accused of harvesting data through Facebook of 50 million users to influence the 2016 US presidential election. Following this, closer home BJP has accused Congress of using similar tactics through Cambridge Analytica.  

Although the data has reportedly been used to influence elections, it does not only stop there.  

A spokesperson for Privacy International, a UK-based charity that defends and promotes right to privacy said, "The current focus is on protecting your data being exploited by third parties, but your data is being exploited all the time. Many apps on your phone will have permission to access location data, your entire phone book and so on. It is just the tip of the iceberg."

In other words, the Cambridge Analytica fiasco is only part of how personal data can be used.

It is probably looking like a good time to contemplate on why we have let Facebook become such an integral part of our day-to-day lives. At what point did we become so addicted to this social networking site, which is BTW hardly used for social networking (re: people who have unfollowed most of the friends on their list)? How did a networking site become a data harvesting machine?

Our Facebook addiction is mostly fuelled by our fear of missing out aka FOMO. Nevertheless, satiating this FOMO does not necessarily mean we are happier when using Facebook, just because now we know what 10 of our friends had for dinner last night or how well the annual family trip of a person we last met 5 years ago went. If information is power, then needless information is bummer. Multiple studies have shown that people who have distanced themselves from Facebook suffer less anxiety as compared to people who are hooked to the site.

Moreover, with 2.2 billion users, Facebook is also one of the leading social media sites taken over by cyberbullies and trolls, where paid content overtakes organic content, with threats to privacy and personal information.

Users who are worried about their data could any day opt to delete Facebook. But getting out of this entrapment is not as simple and quick as one might think. Once a user opts to permanently delete the account, it takes Facebook 90 days to fully wipe out the data. If you decide to visit Facebook meanwhile, it will do away with your deletion request.

In case you want to store years of data accumulated on Facebook before you delete your account, you can download all of that from the archive accessible through the 'General' tab.

There will also be a bunch of apps that one probably accesses with Facebook. Before deleting it, one must remember to change the accessibility settings on those apps and either generate a new id/username and password or perhaps link it to Google.

But coming back to the question - if not Facebook, then what?

Not only disseminating or accessing information, Facebook also serves as a great platform for one's walk down memory lane. Also how or where else will people connect with like-minded groups of people? Where will companies set up meetings and create events? Who will tell you about the next gig of your favourite band? With not even half of Facebook's reach and depth, Twitter and Instagram can't get the job done.

Truth is we just don't have an alternative as of now.

But then again, as a Twitter user said, "We all moved on from MySpace we can move on from Facebook too."

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