Due partly to documentaries such as The Social Dilemma, along with mountains of negative media coverage of the Facebook brand, more and more people are thinking about reducing their dependence on the company, a complicated task given its status as the leading global social network, coupled with the network effect. Used by more than 2.5 billion people, getting out is not easy or necessarily practical; simply disconnecting can send out the message you have become asocial.
Remind me again: what’s the problem with Facebook? Simply, the total control it wants over all our data, coupled with its unethical business model, which has given rise to its current reputation. You may not want to sever all ties, but you can consider reducing its impact by removing as much data as possible. To do this, you should think about how you use Facebook: if it’s just to keep you in touch with friends and family, they already have most of your basic personal information, which Facebook uses to manage a large part of its advertising, so you could delete that and simply have a basic, incomplete profile. Facebook will pester you from time to time asking you to complete it, but you can completely disregard that.
If you want to go further, and considering that Facebook squeezes as much information as possible from what you provide and don’t provide, why not uninstall the application from your smartphone and start using it only on your computer’s browser. Removing the app from your smartphone prevents the company from getting a lot of information about your habits, and also helps discipline yourself to only log in once a day and then closing the window immediately. Think of it as a kind of therapy. Go in, see if someone has sent you something or you want to comment on something, and go out. And above all, don’t read news on Facebook. Find out stuff elsewhere. And obviously, don’t use your Facebook profile to authenticate yourself on other sites: why should it know anything about which sites you visit?
Given the growing interdependence of Facebook’s component parts, what about WhatsApp and Instagram, which are also monitoring your every move. In the case of WhatsApp, try to convince your contacts to move to a more innocuous app, like Telegram — which already has half a billion users and has revealed some plans for its next monetization — or, ideally, Signal, which belongs to a non-profit foundation and is committed to privacy. Facebook intends to make WhatsApp a big part of its future, which will imply major changes in the use it will make of your information.
Removing Instagram will be a problem for regular users, but at the very least, check your smartphone settings for the permissions you give the app and at least remove the location (you can add it manually to each photo). Removing Instagram from your phone and only using it on your computer probably doesn’t make sense for most users, but understand that every move you make on it will be watched by Facebook.
What else can you do? Installing Ghostery or any other similar add-on to your browser and asking it not only to remove advertising from all those pages where you don’t want to see it (and to keep it on those other pages that you want to support and where you don’t find it particularly annoying), will also prevent Facebook from spying on you by blocking social buttons. In effect, those small and seemingly harmless “Like” or “Share” buttons make it possible for Facebook to record your visit to web sites and add it to the information it uses for advertisers to segment your profile.
These are the main steps I have taken over time as my perceptions of the company have evolved. The next step will come when I finish the next redesign of my own website: removing social buttons completely and making it completely Facebook-free, for consistency and out of respect for my readers. Does that sound reasonable? Over the top? Impossible? You should consider these kinds of actions if you really want to reduce your dependence on the Facebook empire but aren’t ready to cut all ties. Can we fix the problem by reducing our dependence on Facebook? Possibly not, but at least it will give us more control over our information, and above all, increase our awareness of what we are doing when we use a service on the net and how dependent we are on it.
This post was previously published on Medium.
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