Don’t bother trying to quit Facebook – it’s too late and you won't change anything

You might have hoped that by joining a collective crusade you’d be partially responsible for slaying the beast and making the world a fairer place. It’s a nice idea but it’s unrealistic

PMQs: May questioned over 'shady link' between Vote Leave and data mining company at heart of Facebook scandal

I love a good David and Goliath story: a small firm successfully suing a multinational giant over a copyright infringement, or the obscure underdog surging ahead to beat the household name incumbent in what everyone thought was an undisputed election.

And in the same spirit, I wholly believe that the common people have a duty to hold corporate behemoths to account when legal or ethical lines are crossed or challenged. Surely that’s the definition of true democracy.

I respect anyone who took the decision to abandon Facebook this month in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal that engulfed the social media giant. Killing off your online avatar is commendable, especially as so many of us rely on the omniscient platform to design everything from our social lives to our next job moves – not to mention for pure, hedonistic entertainment.

So for that reason it’s with a sense of pity that I tell you: deleting your Facebook account probably wasn’t worth it after all. You shouldn’t have bothered trying to quit. It’s too late; your martyrdom won’t change anything – and chances are it probably didn’t work anyway.

Perhaps you joined the #DeleteFacebook movement to deal a blow to multibillionaire Mark Zuckerberg’s sprawling enterprise. You might have hoped that by joining a collective crusade you’d be partially responsible for slaying the beast, and making the world a fairer place.

It’s a nice idea, but it’s unrealistic. Facebook has over two billion users, and even if a throng of disgruntled westerners appalled by the prospect of their data being shared decides to sulkily throw in the towel, that won’t offset the daily wave of new subscribers, particularly stemming from parts of Asia and Africa.

According to number crunchers at Statista, Facebook accounts for over 42 per cent of monthly social media visits. Some 1.4 billion active users visit it daily. As emerging markets catch up on online connectivity, platforms like this are only going to proliferate – partially because they tend to be reliable tools for communication.

In a bid to win users in parts of the world where internet connections are still slow, Facebook has actually released a data-efficient version of its app. Against such astuteness, your attempt to deal the company a blow by turning your back in a huff amounts to little more than a Lilliputian child pathetically slapping Gulliver on the wrist. If it even notices, Facebook just won’t care.

Perhaps your decision to quit Facebook was driven by your moral compass, your ethical conscience, and a desire to just feel like a better person who does the right thing. If that’s the case, you might as well give up the internet all together.

If you’re concerned that Facebook facilitates the spread of extremist propaganda, and that users are therefore partially responsible for publicising those disgusting hate messages, then you don’t know enough about YouTube, which is owned by Google, or Twitter.

I know the most popular incentive to desert Facebook is a fear that your data will be compromised. But unfortunately even that logic doesn’t really stack up.

To be clear, every big telecommunication and technology firm uses targeted advertising in some way. And guess what? They rely on your data to do so.

Take Google. If you haven’t actively turned off location-tracking, Google will know exactly where you’ve been. It knows what you’ve searched for, even if you’ve deleted your search history, and what emails you’ve sent, received and chosen not to send. It’s aware of your age, relationship status, interests, hobbies and maybe even your income.

Similarly, Facebook has been collecting call records and SMS data from Android device services for years. If someone using Facebook Messenger has your number in their phone, Mr Zuckerberg’s band of merry men probably has access to your data, however careful you might have been about your own security settings.

It knows every single place you’ve ever logged in, and it has a record of all the applications you’ve ever connected to your account. If you’ve been on Tinder, Facebook might know several less salubrious things too. Things you would probably not like to be reminded of.

In short, you’re in too deep.

Cleaning up the winding trail of personal records that you’ve left over the last decade would amount to a full-time job – and a stressful one at that. You implicitly agreed to share everything around 2005, when you most likely discovered Facebook and learned to love it as a way of innocently reconnecting with school friends.

Back then, cybersecurity and data breaches might have sounded like foreign concepts – or quaint sci-fi features. You may be regretting it now, but you only have yourself to blame. So don’t waste your time. Embrace the future. At least it won’t be boring.

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