Wolf Richter: Then Why Is Anyone STILL on Facebook?

Yves here. Readers report that Facebook keeps asking them to reactivate their accounts. Wolf confirms that and adds critically important point in his post: you can never escape Facebook. Facebook continues to sell your data even if you have “deleted” your account.

I doubt enough people are aware of that issue. Having delete mean delete, as in Facebook wipes your data entirely, should become a key demand in the row over Facebook’s information “sharing” policies.

By Wolf Richter, a San Francisco based executive, entrepreneur, start up specialist, and author, with extensive international work experience. Originally published at Wolf Street

Things at Facebook came to a head, following the disclosure that personal data from 50 million of its users had been given to a sordid outfit in the UK, Cambridge Analytica, whose business model is to manipulate elections by hook or crook around the world, and which is now getting vivisected by UK and US authorities.

The infamous “person familiar with the matter” told Bloomberg that the Federal Trade Commission has opened an investigation into whether Facebook violated a consent decree dating back to 2011, when Facebook settled similar allegations – giving user data to third parties without user’s knowledge or consent. Bloomberg:

Under the 2011 settlement, Facebook agreed to get user consent for certain changes to privacy settings as part of a settlement of federal charges that it deceived consumers and forced them to share more personal information than they intended. That complaint arose after the company changed some user settings without notifying its customers, according to an FTC statement at the time.

If Facebook is found to be in violation of the consent decree, the FTC can extract a fine of $40,000 per day, per violation. Given the 50 million victims spread over so many days, this could be some real money, so to speak.

Facebook said in a statement, cited by Bloomberg, that it rejected “any suggestion of violation of the consent decree.” It also said with tone-deaf Facebook hilarity, “Privacy and data protections are fundamental to every decision we make.”

That Facebook is collecting every little bit of personal data it can from its users and their contacts and how they react to certain things, their preferences, their choices, physical appearance – photos, I mean come on  – clues about their personalities, and the like has been known from day one. That’s part of its business model. It’s not a secret.

That third parties have access to this data has also been known at least since 2011. Advertisers also have had access to certain types of data to target their ads.

And yet, Facebook’s user base has grown. More than ever, people put their entire lives on Facebook – maybe not the kids, as they’ve become enamored with other platforms, but their moms. Babies are on Facebook long before they have any idea what Facebook is. There’s a generation growing up that has been on Facebook since birth.

When the Equifax hack occurred last year – which Equifax disclosed graciously and partially months after the fact on September 7 – the personal data of what has now grown to 145.5 million consumers was stolen. This included names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, addresses, and “in some instances,” driver’s license numbers, and other data.

This shocked the world that pays attention to this because the data breach could unleash a tsunami of identity theft. But most consumers who saw it in the media simply shrugged and went on. They could have put a credit freeze on their accounts with the credit bureaus, thus making it nearly impossible for someone else to get a loan or credit card in their name (identity theft). But few consumers put a credit freeze on their accounts. Many consumers still don’t know what Equifax is or what it does, and when you discuss the situation, they think you’re spouting off conspiracy theories.

But there is a difference between credit bureaus such as Equifax and social media platforms such as Facebook.

With credit bureaus, consumers have no choice. They’re forced to be part of the credit-bureau data bases. Their data is collected, and there is nothing they can do about it. Consumer protection should be the number one priority. When companies get hacked and this consumer data gets stolen, there should be harsh punishments against these companies if they’re found to have been negligent. Arthur Andersen comes to mind.

But with Facebook and other social media platforms, there is no coercion. Consumers submit their most private data voluntarily – nay, eagerly. They jump through hoops to share this stuff with the rest of the world. So maybe they only want to share it with x and not with y, but heck, they’re uploading it to the Internet. What do they expect?

And there is another difference between Equifax and Facebook: Equifax was hacked and the data was stolen. Facebook gave away the data as part of its business model.

But they do have a major trait in common: An aggrieved consumer cannot delete the data these outfits have collected on that consumer. While Facebook allows you to “delete” items and “delete” your account, the data stays behind on the server. It’s available for all purposes; it’s just not publicly viewable.

So now there’s a hue and cry in the media about Facebook, put together by reporters who are still active on Facebook and who have no intention of quitting Facebook. There has been no panicked rush to “delete” accounts. There has been no massive movement to quit Facebook forever. Facebook does what it does because it does it, and because it’s so powerful that it can do it. A whole ecosystem around it depends on the consumer data it collects.

Yes, there will be the usual ceremonies that Equifax also went through: CEO Zuckerberg may get to address the Judiciary Committee in Congress. The questions thrown at him for public consumption will be pointed. But behind the scenes, away from the cameras, there will be the usual backslapping between lawmakers and corporations. Publicly, there will be some wrist-slapping and some lawsuits, and all this will be settled and squared away in due time. Life will go on. Facebook will continue to collect the data because consumers continue to surrender their data to Facebook voluntarily. And third parties will continue to have access to this data.

With Facebook, consumers are in total control: They can just refuse to open an account. And if they have already opened an account, they can delete the app on their mobile devices, clean the cache on their computers, and swear to not ever again sign back in. If enough consumers do that, the whole construct would come down.

The only act that would change anything is if consumers massively and forever abandon Facebook and platforms like it, and never-ever sign on again. That would bulldoze the whole problem away. But that’s not going to happen because consumers don’t want it to happen.

So as far as I’m concerned, people who are still active on Facebook cannot be helped. They should just enjoy the benefits of having their lives exposed to the world and serving as a worthy tool and resource for corporate interests, political shenanigans, election manipulators, jealous exes, and other facts of life.

Meanwhile, these dang trillions are flying by so fast, they’re hard to see. Read…  US Gross National Debt Spikes $1.2 Trillion in 6 Months, Hits $21 Trillion

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  1. MedicalQuack

    Ok, I had a Facebook account, 15 years ago and did it for a few months so I could write about it. I read where folks who joined Spotify were getting their deleted and non active Facebook accounts turned on, so I created a non Facebook Spotify account, played a few songs, and bingo, Facebook re-activated my account that had been deleted 15 years ago and luckily enough I have a list of old passwords to where I had to go in and delete it again! They sent me an email telling me an email and not to the email address I used 15 years ago with the account, and found another one of my email addresses to alert me, that’s how it goes.

    Moral of this story, is that you are never deleted, you’re data never goes away for those who have trouble believing this. I used to write software and programmers themselves are almost afraid to dump any data as they “might’ need it somewhere down the road, kind of goes with the job you could say, it’s a mind set that comes with writing code. I did this on purpose to see if what I read about others on the web having this happen and sure enough, without fail so the heck with that Spotify IPO too:)

    1. albert

      “…I used to write software and programmers themselves are almost afraid to dump any data as they “might’ need it somewhere down the road, kind of goes with the job you could say, it’s a mind set that comes with writing code….”

      What do you mean by “data”? I used to save -source code-, for my own future reference, never to recycle at another company.
      . .. . .. — ….

  2. kimyo

    So as far as I’m concerned, people who are still active on Facebook cannot be helped

    likewise: people who still purchase apple products cannot be helped. also: people who still use google…. who still vote democratic….. who still vote republican……

    The only act that would change anything is if consumers massively and forever abandon Facebook

    however, a certain number of account deletions, sufficient to reduce growth to zero, or to shave hours logged in by a few percent, would serve to kill facebook’s market value.

  3. Mike G.

    “Keep it constructive …”

    In that spirit, what are the alternatives for large, diverse groups of people to keep in touch with each other? For all of its faults, FB does serve a function.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      People managed to do that before Facebook. I’m not that sort, but I know plenty of people who have astonishingly large personal networks. And those contacts are real, as in they can call or e-mail people in them and get a response, and generally have them willing at least to go out for a coffee. They are highly social people who are involved in various groups that put them in touch with lots of people who have similar interests (political organizing, a not for profit, alumni organizations, being in an amateur sports league).

      And what good does it actually do to “keep up” with “friends” who are overwhelmingly “friends” in no meaningful sense of the word? And that is before you get to the well documented “Facebook effect” that the more time you spend on FaceBook, the more depressed you are, because everyone else cherry picks what they present so it looks like they are having a better life than you do.

      1. Jahi

        That seems a little willfully obtuse, Yves. While I’d estimate that the vast majority of FB users and interactions could be lumped the way you do, I have revived many friendships and keep up with a large number of friends’ life events in a way I couldn’t before. I also have extended public conversations–sort of like the conversations that take place here — in a way that I couldn’t before. And while I do have a blog, not only do far fewer people follow it than follow me on Facebook, it also is a specialist forum. Unlike Facebook, where my less-politically-minded and less “spend all day analyzing and debating ideas”-minded friends will come across such discussions as well.

        There is no “call and go out for a coffee” equivalent of the long-form public conversations I have on Facebook; the blog comment section of NC and other websites is the closest equivalent, but as I say, not really equivalent at all. And a joint quasi-public space to keep familiar with each other in a large social network is a new thing that, I would argue, does not have zero social good, and is not easily replaced.

        Maybe the costs are higher than it is worth, particularly for the majority, and certainly there are negative psychological effects just as there are positive ones in some cases, at some times. All this does not mean it is easily replaceable–any more than this blog is easily replaceable, just because people used to be able to communicate political ideas and have extended conversations without them.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          There is plenty of evidence that the shallow “friendships” on FaceBook and other social media are no substitute for seeing people in the flesh. Spending time on social media comes at the expense of real world contact. See here for longer-form discussions:


          You also incorrectly posit that there are no other ways to keep up with people. Come on. I know plenty of people who do….and now that I think of it, they are also generally way more successful in their professions precisely because they don’t rely on easy but low quality relationship maintenance.

          1. Nameful

            With all due respect, Yves, Facebook does do some things that are better/useful/etc. than the alternatives for some people. As you know, not everyone is the same – some are uncomfortable with person-to-person interactions; some would rather post things about themselves and let interested parties see them than actively push the same things to people, and some people actually communicate better when they are not face-to-face with people (just as some people play correspondence chess instead of live). And then Jahi’s point about discussions online, especially involving people from wildly different parts of the world and cultures, is a good one.

            Of course, this is not everybody, but there is a small sliver of positive. The problem is that the positive coexists with very large negatives, which makes it a question of trade-offs and personal priorities/preferences. And on top of this, Facebook’s attempts to persuade its users to spend as much time as possible on the site and share as much info as possible about themselves is both a good training for vigilance and a losing battle for users in the long run. Speaking for myself, the net value has always been a clear negative, hence a lack of a Facebook account, but this does not automatically mean in my view that the net value should be negative for everyone.

          2. Bill

            I’m still on fb because it’s useful. Two years ago a fire broke out near where I live, in a rural area south of Portland, Oregon. A Facebook page was started immediately, keeping us all informed of evacuations, who could board animals, when the wind direction shifted, etc. I was about 10 miles from the fire, but if the winds had been blowing my way it could have been on my doorstep in half an hour. I had a bag packed ready to go for days. Twitter can be useful for the same reason.

          3. Jean

            As a regional bulletin board, Facebook does have some utility as in the fire example above.
            But “Friends”? More at
            “Stepford Friends.”

            Would they bail you out of jail?

            Come to your hospital room?

            Attend a wedding or funeral of a relative?

            Could you crash at their place in a disaster?

            That’s what real friends do.

            Just like online hookups and sending nude pictures cheapens and devalues sex and intimacy, so do Facebook “Friends” devalue real friendship which is one of the greatest things a person can have.

          4. Lord Koos

            I use facebook, although I’ve cut way back on it. I still find it a valuable way to keep in touch with friends who live far away. It’s not a “shallow” friendship when they are actually friends I’ve known for years (in some cases for decades). I agree meeting in person is ideal, but the reality is I have many friends who I see maybe once every 2 or 3 years at best, because of the distances involved. It’s also been a great way to reconnect with people I’ve lost track of over the years. My closest friends however, keep in touch by email.

            1. Lord Koos

              In addition, I refuse to use my smartphone for facebook or for email unless it’s some sort of emergency. In fact the only thing I really use the smartphone for other than calls and texts, is for GPS and mapping when traveling. I don’t have the FB app on the phone – I worry more about smartphone surveillance that I do FB, and will probably revert to a “dumb” phone and a talk & text plan with soon. Maybe buy a separate GPS unit for the car.

              1. lyle

                This is why I still have a basic phone, no smart phone features. I use it basically for travel only, because when I am home there is the landline (since I have dsl I need the landline). Don’t need it when the car breaks down since the car has onstar. And further I don’t travel that much or by plane at all in the last 14 years since I retired. When time is not an obstacle seeing the US is interesting.

          5. Gordon M

            “There is plenty of evidence that the shallow “friendships” on FaceBook and other social media are no substitute for seeing people in the flesh. Spending time on social media comes at the expense of real world contact. ”

            Exactly. I’ve always maintained that social media is like the methadone of human interaction. A poor substitute, it’s nevertheless just powerful enough to prevent you pulling on your coat and going out to score the real stuff.

          6. Scott1

            You can hope that what you do in public is a good example and helps others live.

            I get from websites all I hoped to get from Ham Radio.

            I was even banned from CR4 for using curse words in a compliment. There was real conflict.
            I feel special.
            I’m even sorry I apologized.

            The friends of those Engineers I had made followed me and each other over to Facebook.
            The wikidot didn’t work out. I kept forgetting my password to it.

            If I didn’t use Facebook I wouldn’t know what
            my daughter was doing, and I’m curious about
            her life.

            Her friends don’t want to know me sometimes. Some of them do.

            In my public & private life I try to be wise.

            Greatest thing I learned here is to put a freeze
            on my accounts with any of the Credit Bureaus.

            Business goes on seriously between people
            you call on the phone.

            What’s mine is yours & what’s yours is yours, is the mission of Facebook and all the rest of them.
            Ours is always theirs too.

            Corporation’s missions since Krugman? or one of them, is to sell is to make money for elites, shareholders, Not be a utility.
            A regulated utility is preferred.

            The FCC regulates Ham Radio.

        2. Clive

          The seductive availability of the likes of Facebook and its ilk are in my experience an enabler of loosening family ties and inhibiting proper one-to-one personal communications. I’ve little blood family left so I’ve no excuses, but I’m really hopeless at keeping in touch with my father. We’ve both allowed ourselves to become lazy because “oh, he’ll have seen that photo I uploaded on Facebook last week”. I loath Facebook but like you I still send the odd thing out on it just to show anyone who knows me well enough to have found me (a few ex-co-workers and a handful of distant relatives plus my Dad — all, incidentally, 40+ years old, no-one any younger than that has an account that I can see) that I’m still alive.

          If it wasn’t for the social media platforms, we’d all be compelled — guilt and moral suasion are powerful motivators — to phone now and again or even, horror of horrors, go visit. I know I’m fooling myself that some trite update on Facebook really is a valid substitute for proper maintenance of personal relationships but it’s not (yet) sufficiently socially unacceptable to get away with such laziness that anyone will call you out on it. Ditto the bragging, posturing and photoshop’ed family portraits that passes for social interaction all too often on these channels.

          It might have a few years left in it yet, and as Wolf says there’ll always be a coterie of unwashables who don’t get the memo, but it’s not hard to intuit that the tide might be turning. Once that happens, Facebook will get the digital equivalent treatment of the fondue set that you moved to the back of the funny shaped kitchen cupboard you never go in — it’s still there because you can’t quite bring yourself to throw it away, but you’re embarrassed that you ever bought it and secretly hope that, if you never look at it again, it might just disappear of its own accord one day.

          And it can happen overnight — once LinkedIn became notorious for bullshit resumes and a little more than a creepy hang out for recruitment consultants, it became an embarrassment to even say you had a profile on it any more.

          1. Steven

            There are very serious problems with FB and how it spies and collects data but for staying in touch with family and friends there is absolutely nothing else. Even if it isn’t great it is better than nothing at this point. One of my good college friends recently was told he was going to die and was barely conscious when his sister brought him into the ER. His sister got the message out on FB and it is the only way we all would have known since many of us don’t know his sister or his other groups of friends. (fortunately 3 weeks after being told he was going to die they discovered they were wrong). Unless you have no pr little family and the same amount of local friends it is disingenuous to say there are other effective ways to stay in touch with large groups of people. As an artist there is no other way to promote and work on events locally that is as effective as FB. I wish there was some other way but in 5 years none of us have found it.

            1. Medbh

              I have deleted my facebook account and am not interested in social media in general. However, I have kids, and all of their sports teams, clubs, and schools use facebook for scheduling events, to RSVP, make group decisions, arrange carpooling, send birthday invites, etc.

              If you opt out of facebook, you’re dependent upon others to be willing to send you individual messages to keep you updated. Even with good intentions, that doesn’t always happen. My family has missed multiple events because we didn’t get the facebook updates or someone forgot to send us a separate announcement.

              I have no interest at all in the socializing aspect of facebook, but there is currently no shared alternative to the communication and coordination that you get through facebook. People aren’t using facebook just because they’re lazy and shallow.

              1. Harrold

                It sorta makes you wonder how people were able to function 15 years ago, doesn’t it??

                I had a young, fresh out of college co-worker tell me recently that he could not fathom how companies were able to be managed before the invention of email. I told him people were smarter back in the 1980s.

                1. Lord Koos

                  It was just a different kind of tech. People communicated via voicemail on their answering machines, mostly. There was a lot more talking in person over the phone. What floors me today is how so many people, especially younger folks, prefer to text rather than speak in person. This is the case even in situations where talking directly to someone is a much faster way to deal with an issue than texts. Attempting to have a complex conversation via texting is absurd.

                  1. lyman alpha blob

                    That’s one other reason I also have no mobile phone. My wife has tried to insist that I get one so she can get in touch but I pointed out that when I try to call her cell, she rarely answers anyway. She’s told me that everybody texts which I find extremely annoying and time consuming to do, and no one ever listens to voicemails either. Now I just call people and hang up after a few rings.

                    Seems kind of a waste to pay big money for a ‘phone’ when nobody actually uses the phone part any more.

                    They can pry my landline from my cold dead hands.

                2. Medbh

                  “It sorta makes you wonder how people were able to function 15 years ago, doesn’t it??”

                  Yes, there were alternatives, but they are only effective if people are willing to use them. Communication is a social activity. Most of the kid-related groups are run by volunteers. If I opt out of facebook, I’m making demands on other people’s time and saying that my preferences have greater weight than the rest of the group.

                  People could use the phone or written correspondence or however it was done before, but if the other people won’t, you’re just taking to yourself.

                  Also, some aspects of facebook and other software are more convenient and effective than previous methods. I don’t think it’s worth the privacy concerns, but I see the value of the technology and understand why people don’t default to the phone anymore.

            2. saurabh

              I can’t believe you are serious. Phones have existed for over a century; everyone has one in their pocket now. You can easily call and speak to whoever you want. Email still exists and is widely used. SMS is a cheap, ubiquitous chat protocol. Et cetera. Facebook is hardly irreplaceable.

              Your claim that you would not have known about your friend being in the ER without Facebook is a counterfactual; that was how it was communicated to you. In its absence you would likely have found out some other way.

              Help humanity end this plague. Delete your account.

            3. Jean

              Steven, is there some reason you can’t pick up a phone?

              Also, there’s this really cool app where you can send physical objects like pictures or text on carbon, or even hand did, across the nation for less than .50 cents, it’s called the Post Office. Free delivery!

            1. ppp

              Yeah I had to take a god awful intro to business communication class for the GWAR requirement and they made us create a LinkedIn account for an assignment, and fill out profile information on our gmail accounts, etc. I hate posting information on the internet, but cant pass the class unless you bite the bullet
              When I try to convince people not to use FB anymore, I tell them FB is only for old people. Sadly, that argument works better than ”You are being surveilled,” I have found.

        3. doily

          What a wonderful thought: the EU and the FTC destroy Facebook’s value, and the world dumps it into the trash. I’ve hated it from the get go, and would hate it even without the connections to Cambridge Analytica, for basically the same reasons as Yves articulates.

          It’s weird. I live with a FB addict. When I hear laughter or music in the next room, I know I can peek at the latest gif, joke, or gig. Generally though it’s hard to be around. Even when engaged in those wonderful face-to-face things like playing cards, or golf, or frisbee, or music, you’re surrounded by the distracted. I accept the necessity of virtual communication. I’m looking for work, so I’m on LinkedIn and making as much noise as possible. I don’t think it’s doing me any harm. I’ll probably dump it as soon as I’m fixed up though. The posts are generally stupid. I FaceTime or Skype with my 85 year old mom. But the twentysomething kids are harder to reach, and they drift from platform to platform. Nobody under 40 in my universe answers email anymore. Haven’t received a letter in five years.

          I am reminded of Susan Sontag’ conclusion to On Photography:

          “It suited Plato’s derogatory attitude toward images to liken them to shadows. . . But the force of photographic images comes from their being material realities in their own right, richly informative deposits left in the wake of whatever emitted them, potent means for turning the tables on reality—for turning *it* into a shadow. Images are more real than anyone supposed. And just because they are an unlimited resource, one that cannot be exhausted by consumerist waste, there is all the more reason to apply the conservationist remedy. If there can be a better way for the real world to include the one of images, it will require an ecology not only of real things but of images as well. “

    2. Phoebe

      In my smallish Northeastern mill city, where we lost our local newspaper a couple of decades ago, Facebook has become the platform that a lot of our city officials and activists use to replace some (not all, never all) of what a local paper would have done. There isn’t normally any way of reproducing true local reporting, but people use it to inform each other of city council agenda items, development proposals of interest, official announcements and actions by officeholders, and so on, as well as to publicize local events.

      Many of us would love to get off the platform (I’m one of them). To your question, I think that old-fashioned personal blogging platforms like the Livejournal-code-based Dreamwidth would do everything that people need done, and have the additional advantage of not meddling with what users see via ever-changing algorithms. (Add an individual or feed to your reading list on DW, and DW will show you everything from that person or feed and trust you to scroll if you’re not interested in a specific post. Unlike FB, where you don’t even know when the system has decided not to show you something you told it you were interested in.)

      But for that to work, at least a strong plurality of the major content contributors in town have to decide to make the move together, and probably have to agree to stop cross-posting to FB after a week or two to encourage others. And people who don’t necessarily know even rudimentary html might have to learn a little, and they’d have to sign up at another site, and I agree with every single person who’s going to say this is a trivial burden. But realistically, it’s harder for a lot of people than I would have believed possible. And inertia is a powerful force.

      It’s user inertia that’s the problem, though. Facebook doesn’t give us anything other platforms couldn’t, except for its pre-existing user base.

      1. WheresOurTeddy

        Mastodon has their own social network now? Awesome! Crack The Skye was a great album.

    3. Charles Yaker

      If “we the people” can establish that corporations are not people we can make Facebook a utility in the old fashioned way Bell was a utility and set the rules. On the other hand fat chance of that happening
      . Or somebody competent technologically can crowd source an alternative Facebook using the Cooperative model.

    4. lyman alpha blob

      Why not simply email?

      While I don’t have a Fleecebook account myself and never will, most of my extended family members do. But still when the holidays come around and they want to know who’s going to show up, they send me and everyone else in the family an email, they don’t post it on FB.

      I fail to understand why it’s so hard to simply create an email list because really, what FB and these other social media companies provide is just glorified email, a technology which has existed for decades and allows you to communicate essentially for free with anyone else in the world immediately. Pretty big development, that one.

      Everything since is just shiny new bells and whistles trying to convince the rubes that something that works perfectly well is now new and improved (aka ‘innovation’), but the service provided – free digital communication with anyone anywhere – is the same.

    5. Arizona Slim

      You’ve probably read this on NC:

      If your business depends on a platform, you don’t have a business.

      Lately, I’ve been saying this to myself:

      If your friendship depends on a platform, you don’t have a friendship. At most, you have an acquaintance.

      And that’s what I’m finding out. Most of my so-called Facebook friends are nowhere to be seen, now that I’m giving up the Borg for Lent.

      My real friends? Well, we’re calling, texting, and e-mailing each other. Seeing each other too. Oh, has that been FUN!

    6. Oregoncharles

      It seems to be almost indispensable for political organizing; certainly my younger associates seem to think so. The party has a FB account, and so do the chapters, county by county. It’s another way for people to contact us.

      This results in a very impersonal FB account. Mine has an unrecognizable picture, indicating that I like the woods; only a couple of public personal facts; and a lot of political material, mostly from other people. Posting it also put me back in touch with several actual friends from the past. That was heartwarming. Both of them have far more active accounts than I do, though, so maybe a certain amount can be deduced from that.

      OTOH, a couple of people I tried to find didn’t turn up, or had closed accounts that make it impossible to tell whether it’s the right person.

      But by the same token, my political activity is still mostly by email or personal contact, plus phone meetings. FB is essentially a publicity outlet.

      1. Nathanael

        Yep. My FB account is also highly impersonal. It’s used for contact lists, so political organizing, obviously.

    1. Doug Hillman

      Yeah, FaceBorg, starve it and then stave (beat) it to death.

      But resistance is futile. Conspiracy fact: FaceBorg is a tool of the surveillance deep state, one of many including Google, and it’s not going away any sooner than the NSA, CIA, DHS, FBI, DIA, or any other Stasi agency

      1. jrs

        Yea us tinfoil hat people do wonder why it succeeded where MySpace failed, when the FB user interface sucked for years and years, i mean it was just *bad*. Surveillance state behind it maybe. I also think that is why Google succeeded where Yahoo failed, although Google was in some ways technically better.

        1. Harrold

          I think you can blame Mark Cuban for Yahoo!’s demise. They paid $5.7 billion for his company Broadcast.com during the height of the dotcom mania and then shut it down and 2.5 years later.

          That debacle scared Jerry Yang and Dave Filo and they did not make another significant acquisition for 10 years. And by then they were mostly irrelevant.

          1. WheresOurTeddy

            Cuban is truly the winner of the 1990s. One good idea, sold at top of market hysteria, cashed out, has coasted for 20 years while sexually harassing people who work for his hobby basketball team. #AmericanDream

  4. Aggie

    While people can delete individual platforms, it’s no longer possible to not engage with the internet. Modern life demands engagement — from paying bills to doing homework. It’s like saying I’m going to choose to live without plumbing, or I’m not going to use sidewalks.

    People need to demand privacy, and if enough voters ask for it, politicians will listen. GDPR is a start.

    1. Mel

      I wouldn’t call it “engage”, I’d call it “use”. Like you didn’t talk about engaging with sidewalks. I use the Internet to engage with the people in the email groups I keep, for example.

  5. Pavel

    The most highly rated “story” (such as it is) on Hacker News right now is a link to a github account page describing how to block Facebook by altering the “hosts” file on your computer:


    This is not my particular area of expertise (not sure what is!) but this seems to block the DNS lookups of all the various IP addresses used by Facebook on its servers around the world (resetting them to “”

    The Hacker News commentariat discusses this approach and alternatives (e.g. software packages) here:

    On my Mac I was able easily to edit the hosts file; I can always reverse the change and at least there is a placebo effect :)

    For those who are less geeky there are e.g. browser extensions but at least one HN commentator thinks the hosts approach is superior:

    joeblau 5 hours ago [-]

    Any browser plugin is inferior to using a hosts file. Hosts file’s blackhole any network request before even attempting to make a connection. These browser plugins only help if you’re using the specific browser — they aren’t going to help that electron/desktop app that’s phoning home. They wont help block inline media links (Messages on a Mac pre-rendering links) that show up in your chat programs which attempt to resolve to Facebook. They also wont block any software dependency library that you install without properly checking if it’s got some social media tracking engine built in.
    I don’t even waste time or cpu cycles with browser based blocking applications. Steven Black’s[1] maintained hosts files are the best for blocking adware, malware, fakenews, gambling , porn and social media outlets.

    Along with many others, I think Facebook is absolutely evil in a number of ways and would be happy not to interact with it in any way. Thank god I never had an account.

    1. vlade

      I don’t use that for FB, as I don’t use FB at all (never did, never will), but use this technique for MS-phone-home (due to forced upgrade to Win10, when MS stopped supporting perfectly valid HW on Win7).

      DNS block is indeed the best way to do this.

      1. Harrold

        DNS or IP blocking does not work with Microsoft. They circumvent this at the OS level, this must be done at the router.

  6. drumlin woodchuckles

    I never did do facebook. Or myspace. Or twitter. Or any of those things.

    Back when facebook was first getting started, i read that one of its early funders was somehow CIA connected. So I figured facebook was a CIA conspiracy to trick people into building dossiers on themselves. I was probably wrong on the particular facts, but certainly right on the basic principle.

    Those who are already legacy-signed-on can only stop doing anything further on facebook. They can let facebook’s file on them slowly age and decay as it is starved of new input.

    I think back to the Wendy Liu article and wonder if what she really wanted was to “have an impact” and not just “find meaning” in her work. This whole facebook embarrassment might be an opportunity for Liu and the hundreds of other disillusioned young digital designers to get in touch with eachother and figure out how to build a search engine service and a social media service based on privacy and preventing the aggregation and study of data and selling no data, etc. It would have to make money by selling subscriptions to enter into its space if it weren’t going to make money by data-ore mining and refining. Would people rather pay some money per month for a spy-free priva-social media space? If they wouldn’t, then facebook is what they will leave themselves with, by default.

    If they would, perhaps such a subscription-supported fee-based social medium could take off and grow. And perhaps the same people could design a crap-free search engine that does what Lambert Strether and others say Google used to do many years ago. It could be called Simple Search and Social. Maybe designing and launching such a thing could give Liu and others the large-scale impact that perhaps they want to have.

    1. ScottS

      I’ve been feeding Facebook misinformation for years. Better than leaving an old-but-accurate profile. They can retain old copies, true, but it’s not useful in aggregate (which you is the real you?). Fun fact: Facebook will allow you to change your gender six times.

      There’s a peer-to-peer privacy-minded social network called Diaspora. Maybe this latest Facebook scandal will be the thing to get Diaspora off the ground.

  7. Kula

    Evgeny morozov’a take on this is much better. It’s not just a problem with facebook’s Users. It’s about how much society has come to rely upon these companies for its technological infrastructure. For example companies are coercing interviewees to sign in to their Facebook accounts if they want a job. Considering the social and economic shambles the west is in you can’t expect these people to simply delete their account. Combine that with austerity and shrinking city budgets and the free services these companies offer become even more enticing and ingrained into society.

    1. oh

      You forgot “Like us on Facebook” in most of the sites – credit unions, shopping sites, web sites, forums…etc. I laugh at their obeisance.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Will prospective employers try making “being on Facebook” a requirement for getting a job, or even being considered for a job?

      If so, will some jobseekers rebel? How would they rebel? Would any prospective employERS come to see “not demanding you are on Facebook” as a competitive advantage in attracting the smarter people of tomorrow? If “staying off Facebook” is taken to be an indicator of smarterness?

      If employERS are extorting jobseekers to open up their Facebook page, can those employERS be named and shamed and shunned by the “better class of jobseeker”? Can that happen fast enough and hard enough to restrict the practice of Facebook extortion to the “worse class of employER”?

  8. consumerbehavior

    How ’bout LinkedIn. I live in the Bay area and work in Technology. LinkedIn is mandatory to play in this universe. It’s how connections with recruiters and hiring managers originate and job interviews materialize. Resumes are literally an afterthought to the process. This has been the case for years. I realize LinkedIn is not FB. ymmv but imho LinkedIn is creepier in the group think and correct think it spawns. (never participated in other social media). and I guess I just sort of wonder where all this data wanders off to and to what end.

    1. Clive

      See my comment above, where I also mention LinkedIn. That’s just the point, it stopped being any kind of community, it is completely void of any personal interactions and if you don’t play by the rules of the participants (i.e. you try to be yourself, give information which doesn’t further the aim of getting hired or otherwise suggest you may be in the slightest bit other than a corporate drone in waiting) you stick out like a sore thumb. Since the only point of using the LinkedIn platform is to get work, or (if you’re in recruitment) make a hire, you simply don’t do that.

      And from my observations based on the London finance and IT job market (so outside of the Bay Area / tech niche — which is to the rest of the real world what the court of Tsar Nicholas II was to the life of a peasant farmer living on the Russian steppes), LinkedIn has so descended into self parody that no-one takes it — or anyone on it — seriously any more.

      1. jrs

        I think it’s kind of in between. I don’t think LInkedIn is nearly as useful for getting a job as even plain old job boards, it’s way way less useful than that, unless you do serious serious networking. OTOH if you manage to get a company interested in interviewing you by some other means (including applying to jobs via said job boards) they will check your LinkedIn. Also LinkedIn itself is a job board now with job listings. So I think it’s a net negative not to be in LinkedIn but don’t expect it to find you a job.

        I’d never think about expressing my personality on LinkedIn though, do you start talking about politics or even your musical taste in a job interview? Nope, so for the same reason you wouldn’t do so on LinkedIn.

        1. Arizona Slim

          To me, LinkedIn seems like a hotbed of self-promoters who are focused on promoting themselves. Not what I’d call a community.

      2. JustAnObserver

        … and then, with its usual impeccable timing, Microsoft acquires it. ‘Nuff said.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      If one somehow stumbled into LinkedIn and wishes to stumble back out and away, how does one do that?
      Is there a way to erase one’s presence from off of the LinkedIn and cancel one’s “membership”?

    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      I was banned, too, some years ago. I linked a WSJ article regarding how Obamacare is really Heritagecare to a thread on “my” Senator’s wall…his flying monkeys(it was Ted Cruz) took exception and I was banned for a month from FB. after the month, I went right back and found a place on Cruz’ wall to link the same article, with a polite explanation of what they had done to me…and was banned from FB for a year,lol.
      Of course, I have 4 FB accounts, under various names…a combination of Luddism and my efforts at Being Jane Goodall on disparate Righty sites, where I would lurk and observe(my massive, 7 year, field study of the American Right).
      I’ve since “deleted” all but one, that has no discernible content that would be of use(but still has my ISP and whatnot).
      I did sometimes enjoy vigorous political battle….but trolls became a problem..including threats to my person.
      I’ve not posted a thing to FB in 3 years, and am happier for it.
      I’ve confirmed on my own that people are different on FB than they are in real life…I’d determine where my local Teabillies were hanging out, and join whatever group under one of my aliases, and then compare and contrast their behaviour. It’s shocking, really.
      1. that folks feel so free in a FB “private group” to spew the most horrible things. and 2. that people who, In Real Life are polite and even smart apparently have within them such ugliness. The latter has prolly always been there…I know I edit what I say in the feedstore or whatnot…but damn.
      Maybe it would be better if your neighbor’s vileness remained a secret,lol.

  9. Tomonthebeach

    Nobody has been private since BITNET, son of ARPANET.

    Why stay on FB? As we age, the service is a convenient and free way to keep up with friends and families all over the globe. I can do so while sitting in my study or even using my smartphone from the beach.

    Alas, unlike the majority of users, so it seems, I and my friends have a fully functioning bullshit detector, so we ignore most of the spam FB sticks between posts (okay, I often download Trump cartoons that make me laugh). Regular posts help you keep up with changes in friends lives and often prompts a chat now and then. It is like Researchgate with jpegs.

    FB can also help you learn about long-lost friends. Because of all the pics and posts and comments, it is very easy, just like at Cambridge A, to determine that most of the newly rediscovered friends of my childhood, whom I left behind at age 14, turned into ignorant, racist, xenophobe, Trumpites, and life members of the NRA.

    Learning that leaving home was a smart, not regrettable, move – that alone justifies Facebook in my life. Zuckerberg? I am fine with him sharing a room with Shkereli. Bankrupt FB, there will be competitors.

  10. m-ga

    I’d like to shut my Facebook account. However, I’m having trouble doing so because a support group which I run, and which is central to my research career, interacts on Facebook.

    We do have other means of communication – mainly an opt-in email list, along with a presence on several more specialised, non-Facebook owned, social media platforms. However, despite my efforts to promote alternatives, Facebook remains by far the best place to recruit and engage with group members. It would be detrimental to me if I removed myself from Facebook.

    I suspect this situation is not uncommon. It’s not just the inertia of friends and family being available through Facebook – there are often professional reasons to maintain a presence. About all that can be done is to foster and promote alternatives. However, this is against a backdrop of a well-resourced Facebook going hell-for-leather to boost their platform and increase the lock-in :-(

  11. Ignacio

    From my personal point of view, selling my personal data to Cambridge Analytics wouldn’t bother me more that doing the same with advertising managers. The clients of the former would try to sell me some political agenda while the others’ would try to sell me stuff and services. The same propaganda/ads are there at Facebook, TV, radio, newspapers, roads, in your favourite chatting channel etc. In fact, propaganda and ads are so widespread and noisy that I wonder if most of us have become completely deaf and blind about it.

  12. Ignacio

    So as far as I’m concerned, people who are still active on Facebook cannot be helped. They should just enjoy the benefits of having their lives exposed to the world and serving as a worthy tool and resource for corporate interests, political shenanigans, election manipulators, jealous exes, and other facts of life.

    There is the point. Nevertheless I wonder if some mother that published a picture of her baby at FB to share with her family will really be more susceptible to those shenanigans manipulators etc than another person that simply doesn’t use internet. In other words, is a FB user more prone to manipulation than a non user?

    (I do not use Facebook)

  13. vlade

    Out of interest, is the EU right-to-be-forgotten way to delete? As in does it delete the historical FB stuff preventing sale of even historical data, or not? I’d argue it should, but one never knows.. (I don’t have FB, never did, never will).

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I am pretty sure only Google is subject to that. I am too lazy to track down whether that was the result of a regulatory action or a court decision, but I think it was the latter.

      But to your point, not hard to imagine that becoming a new demand, particularly in the UK. Activists in the US might be smart enough to take it up.

    2. Overshoot

      The GDPR gives us (‘data subjects’) the right to erasure of our personal data from any company’s systems, subject to certain conditions. That includes historical data.


      In the case of your Facebook data, the grounds would include (a) the data are no longer needed for the original purpose. It could also be justified on the grounds that your consent is withdrawn (b) and possibly that the use was unlawful ( c) because the data were being used by Facebook for purposes you did not intend.

      IANAL, but this is really a key use case for the GDPR – let people wipe their Facebook and Google data.

  14. Ook

    Not sure if this helps, but before I deleted my FB account, I changed everything I possibly could, including my name and email address to something nonsensical, unlinked everything I could, and turned my postings into nonsense.
    So even if they keep what I’ve deleted, they are keeping nonsense. I doubt they take their version control so seriously as to analyze edits deeply and keep every edit.

    As for social media in general, I was an early member of the Well and EchoNYC, and saw some value in that, but FB is an entirely different category, even if the form is superficially similar.

  15. Jesper

    It seems that the value of a site/network depends (at least to some extent) on the number of registered users. So while a person might want to have his/her account deleted the site/network owner might prefer to deactivate it and call it an inactive account. (As a service to the user of course….)
    What has more investor value:
    -A site/network with x number of registered and active users
    -A site/network with x number of registered and active users + y number of registered but inactive/previous users (who might come back)

    And on a side note, I got this in an e-mail a couple of days ago:

    There’s a new rule in the EU that says if you don’t stay active with us, we have to delete your account.

    relating to a site I’ve not logged into in at a guess maybe 10 years…. Anyone know the time limit for regarded as being active? And/or anything about more about that rule?

  16. RonWilson


    Be aware.

    FB is one of the first places security forces check when you apply for a security clearance.

    1. Nathanael

      I will never apply for a security clearance. I can honestly state that I believe most classified information is classified illegally, and that the entire classification system is unconstitutional, and I can promise to publish any classified information I get my hands on unless publishing it would endanger national security in my *personal* opinion.

      As a result, unless our government changes massively, I don’t think they’d even consider giving me a security clearance. I would never ask.

  17. Steve H.

    John Robb has been pointing to ‘weaponized social networks’ with China being the current leader, people not being able to get train tickets because of their network.

    It’s like a security rating, you already have one, and if you don’t know what it is, it’s low.

    A friend talked about John Waters with me, she’s a connectaholic, and I started getting popups for his films on my computer. Yves has reported a similar experience. When Zuck runs he will distract and isolate his detractors, he doesn’t need to actively oppress them. Huxley > Orwell.

    1. Robert McGregor

      Stupid Me! I hadn’t thought far enough to realize the consequences of Zuck running for President while Facebook continues to function. How are we supposed to regulate the thousands of FB algorithms which could sway voters towards him a thousand times more effectively than Trump ever did? It’s like if 20 years ago, the owner of the New York Times ran for President. Okay, maybe the owner of the Wall Street Journal could have given him a run for his money, except that because of the Digital Algorithm Paradigm, Facebook has much more power to sway voters in one direction or another, than any legacy media ever had.

      1. Steve H.

        Even better is the introduction of trolls to disrupt groups calculated to work against him. Some people just click Friend Suggestions.

        I have never seen a more divisive technology. An old friend of my wife messed with my money train, trolling people that one of my former employers was interacting with. This after the employer moved 2000 miles away, but still had influence back here. People who had simply drifted apart as is normal, got into vicious battles during the election.

        An odd part is the willingness to engage beyond all common sense. Just block the person ffs. It’s my confirmation bias videogame, get off my lawn!

  18. Wukchumni

    I lined up to go through the metal detector @ court yesterday, and as luck would have it, a friend was a couple people in front of me, and we chatted until her name got called to go to a courtroom for jury duty, and shortly thereafter I got my call, and then I got an e-mail from her later @ home, and like me, she didn’t get on a jury, and i’d told her I don’t do social media, nor do I have a cell phone, and this was her response…

    “No phone. No social media.

    Who ARE you, what planet are you from, and why are you infiltrating our justice system?

    Now the truth: I envy the hell out of you!”

  19. John Beech

    This whole ‘outrage’ at Facebook strikes me as funny. Equifax offers a service whereby a credit issuer may quickly make a determination of ones ability and willingness to repay a loan. Since the old way of waiting a couple weeks while Nissan, for example, contacts your creditors and determines if whether you’re credit worthy isn’t in either Nissan’s or the consumer’s interest. Hence, the credit reporting service exists and everybody benefits.

    Similarly, Facebook also performs a service. In their case it’s in providing connections plus an easy way to keep in touch. The quid pro quo being Facebook earns a product, ‘you’, to sell to advertisers (obviously, because to users, the service is free to use) whereby Equifax charges Nissan for their service.

    Thus, stating people who continue to use Facebook can’t be helped is ludicrous on inspection because this presupposes they want to be ‘helped’ all the while ignoring the reason they shrug is because they want what Facebook does far more than they want privacy! The point being, they’re neither stupid nor oblivious to the fact that what they post becomes public knowledge because that’s the very purpose of posting!

    The source of my mirth lies in how those stirring the pot seem oblivious to the obvious. And the cherry on top is that Cambridge Analytica is scurrilous entity for using what Facebook exists to do. I smile about this because had it been HRC who had won due to using their service, these same people would be agog in admiration at the perspicacity of Robby Mook.

    1. Martin Finnucane

      I smile about this because had it been HRC who had won due to using their service, these same people would be agog in admiration at the perspicacity of Robby Mook.

      Yeah, you got it, pal. You just skewered all those Robby Mook-loving squishy liberals that obviously make up NC’s readership.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      *Sigh* There is a big disconnect between the headline and the content.

      FB may have your contact information. Help me. If you didn’t have an unlisted phone back in the day, your contact information was public. And if you have a common or not uncommon name, there are lots of people with the same or a very similar name. Contact information without linking it to other information isn’t all that useful. And Clive will tell you how long banks, which have a ton of customer info, have been at various data mining exercises and have gotten way less far on them than the consultant hype would have you believe.

      1. Clive

        Yes, there is *way* too much noise in the data. De duplicating of multiple records for the same person is the biggest issue — and there’s limited tricks you can pull to resolve it, after all, the fact that you ended up with duplicates in the first place means showed that there was ambiguity which couldn’t be determined by the imposition of a rule. Then you have the whole mess that is trying to unpick different family members. I can guarantee you if you have a family member with the same initials and who lives at the same address, your records will end up duplicated by some data processor to a degree. And then there’s a whole can of worms whereby spouses or other relationships (and even friends — this goes on far more than data processors like to admit to themselves because they are so powerless in the face of it) creates a huge problem by sharing phones, email addresses and even credit cards (as in, they lend someone “their” card who then effectively impersonates the real card owner; it violates the card issuer’s Terms and Conditions, but what can they do in practice to prevent it absolutely?)

        Ditto multiple people sharing the same social media logins. Or selling / giving away their old phones. I gave Lambert an old iPhone which I had lying around in a draw (complete with SIM), it helped him while he was travelling. What do you think that action did to the tracking algorithms?

        Couples separating but not actually divorcing and just divvying up their bank accounts, email addresses, phone numbers and social media stuff informally. Students who maintain two residences. People who have affairs and have a whole separate online alias.

        I’ve written a lot and I’m only just getting started. Anyone who thinks any big data, big data mining and big data exploitation is worth a huge amount (especially where real precision is essential) is drinking way too much Silicon Valley Kool-Aid.

        1. flora

          (especially where real precision is essential)

          I can’t resist commenting that precision and accuracy are not the same thing. It’s possible to be wrong in exactly the same way repeatedly – one is precisely wrong. Example: mis-calibrating original input state or targeting function. Shorter: I agree with your points about data mining.

        2. Robert McGregor

          Clive, Thanks for the details and explanation. You obviously have extensive “data management expertise.” When I was a programmer decades ago, it amazed me how much work and time it took to get even simple processes to work. The lay person has difficulty sorting out the different scales of technical problems. What is the difference in difficulty between having driverless cars for certain fixed path, low terrain difficulty routes versus drive anywhere, in any weather, on any road, in any traffic? Data mining can do a lot, but ““dictatorship through data dominance” will take awhile, because the technical obstacles are many.

      2. Mel

        But the banks’ problem is their data has to be accurate. Facebook’s data just has to be truthy. As long as it sells, it’s good enough. If the customers treat it as the truth, that’s their, and possibly your, and possibly my problem.

        1. Clive

          They have tried to sell their truthiness as the truth to people, like the TBTFs, who ultimately need to work with the truth when it comes to data they buy. They’ve been found out (not that you know it from reading the hype they still put out). All attempts to, for example, augment social media data into credit decisioning systems have been utter failures. Even marketing via social media is much more hit and miss than direct mail or notification areas on bank statements. I’m not saying that marketing using that outlet doesn’t work at all, I am though saying its response rates are much flakier and more unpredictable than traditional channels.

          “Price comparison” websites are far better for converting clicks into sales, for example, than social media targeting.

          1. Nathanael

            Clive, you know the business! Glad to hear from someone who really understands it.

            There’s a massive GIGO element to Facebook marketing.

      3. Lyle

        Actually for physical addresses the family history site (for genealogy) has public records that provide your birthdate and address on a given date. Further of course if you own property that is online (you used to have to go to the court house so its just easier). If your parents are deceased, the obituaries are now online, in many cases likley including your mothers maiden name (so it is no longer a secret).

        1. flora

          And here I am reminded of the following:

          During WWII (and I have this on good authority, never mind how) the UK high command determined that the German high command determined the accuracy of German V-1 bomb sightings on London by reading the death notices published in the UK papers. (This was before satellite imagery.) Serious consideration was given by high UK levels of printing false death notices in the UK papers that would indicate to the German high command their V-1 strikes were falling far north of London . This would, hopefully, lead German high command to re-calibrate their V-1 rockets’ trajectory in order to hit London (which would in fact cause the V-1s to fall far south of London, dropping the V-1s in the channel.) UK decided against this as it would cause both groundless mental anguish in family members and soldiers of those falsely declared dead, and undermine faith in the accuracy of reports from UK press and high command.

          So, precise (by area) but false data might have temporarily caused a respite for London from German V-1 bombs. However, the inaccurate reports printed in the UK press would have undermined public confidence in the UK.

          So, back to Fakebook, let’s just say I have zero confidence in Fakebook’s accuracy, although Fakebook might be extraordinarily precise by their agorithmic AI. ;)

          1. larry

            Fakebook. Love it, flora.

            Also agree with your distinction between precision and accuracy. A distinction that is not made often enough.

  20. Paul

    Close, but not quite Wolf

    Using Yves’ recent issues with Verizon as example. Say Yves from home or while encamped at Starbucks decides to search news sites to compose Daily Links.
    Regardless if this search consists of NY centric news outlets or sources elsewhere chances are her internet traffic will transit as many as 100 different networks at 60 Hudson Street. These networks likely include AT&T Amazon Apple Charter Comcast DIRECT TV Facebook Google IBM Microsoft & Verizon …. aka The usual suspects.
    Therefore while using say a Facebook account will be of great assistance to Facebook it is by no means a requirement for Facebook to gather significant information about every internet user whose signal transits their systems. Information available by hosting transit would icluding history social media email contacts and whatever other information is made available to the hosts bu the users systems while the user transmits data through the various hosts.
    Good to remember
    Facebook is not a big player in cloud data systems.
    Those who are happen to be experiencing supercharged revenue.
    To fold some foil…. Maybe Verizon hasn’t been sharing with, or has been over mining the others so they retaliate against Verizon, their users data streams.
    Finally, reports suggest hundreds of millions of user data profiles have been improperly accessed with Facebook assent. At $40K per the theoretical exposure to fines could be in the Trillions

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I’m not sure here what you are trying to say. I look at SO MANY sites in a day, and for instance, read stories about medical conditions that have nothing to do with me and then sometimes do related searches that it would look like I had virtually every ailment on the planet save some obscure ones if you tried reaching conclusions about my health from my browsing history. Reading my posts tells you more about my views than my search history, it’s too hard to make sense of that.

      1. Paul

        What I’m saying is FB will produce a significant profile even if you’ve never had a FB account. Further FB will share or mine data in the attempt to get more data in the never ending quest to enhance profiles. Key components in ongoing development and valuation of FB currency in the marketplace.

        Your observations ref some targeted advertising failures on healthcare ads from browsing history is illustrative. When data companies can draw on HC search only ad quality reflect that. When digital medical records, pharmacy purchase history, frequency & type of HC services accessed is available obviously vast improvements in microtargeting algorithm performance is observed. Keys to PRISM.

        Facebook for example may not ever had a FB account for you. However that does not preclude FB from developing a sophisticated profile of you from information (currency) gleaned from your activities that cross a FB platform, or is traded with FB by other sources. Sources such as Verizon voice-cable-data information, Google NC data or Apple iPhone or iPad contact-content lists from those that communicate with you-NC. Finally that such a profile may well be part of FB current FUBAR.

        Time to consult Math Babe. Observations from big data journalism about FB leaking hundreds of millions of profiles would be interesting.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          You have the extent to which data can be shared wrong. You are getting into tinfoil hattery.

          With FB, your data is theirs by contract. You have agreed to let them mine you contacts, and I already dispatched that above. They are NOT allowed to access content. That would be hacking. Anyone who found out FB was up to that would have a slam dunk class action suit for megabucks.

          My voice-cable data, by contrast, can be accessed by private third parties only (and then it is an if) in discovery in civil litigation. Ditto Google NC data and all the other stuff you listed.

          I hope Clive will chime up. Banks will sell credit card transaction info, but put emphasis on “sell”. Political campaigns buy that only for big ticket donors. to try to sus out via their buying habits what their hot buttons might be. Too expensive to do en masse, plus FB thinks it knows that better already via likes and friends.

  21. The Rev Kev

    So, Facebook also performs a service. Hmmm. Interesting word that. I am reminded of the time there was a big dinner here in Oz with cattle farmers, local politicians and cattle transporters all attending. The politicians got up and said that they were proud of the service that they provided the cattle farmers and how great it all was. Then the cattle transporters go up and said how proud they were in providing a service to the local community in moving all these cattle.
    Then an old cattle farmer got up and thanked the politicians and cattle transports but said that with all the fees and taxes charged, that he and his fellow cattle farmers could do with a little less “servicing” by both groups thank you very much.
    For what it is worth, I used my computer to run a projection algorithm on the expansion rate of Facebook to give a likely outcome worldwide over the next fifty years and this is what my computer gave me-

  22. jfleni

    I will not post any meaningful resumes in this time of frantic job ads, since they will end up on “Buttbook” in a fraction of a second.

    Recruiters take note; if you really work for them, then you are queering your own work.

  23. freedeomny

    I started an account on FB years ago as many in my family wanted to keep in touch….however, I never really did post because I always felt that the service was incredibly creepy. I have been trying to delete my account for the past five years with very little success; I’ve forgotten my original password – I delete the account and then it pops up again – they seem to change the deletion process fairly frequently and it is made unusually complicated. I kind of liken this to spam mail and opting out of telemarketing calls, but you can unsubscribe for emails and get on a do not call list. There needs to be some kind of public movement to force legislation to have similar controls for FB.

  24. CdnLurker

    It is amusing that it took Trump’s name being attached to Facebook data collection to provoke outrage and not Snowden and PRISM. The end result will likely be Facebook’s business model having additional constraints put on it in several major markets and Zuckerberg’s 2020 nomination chances torpedoed. “Are you not entertained”

  25. Brooklin Bridge

    So as far as I’m concerned, people who are still active on Facebook cannot be helped.

    I get the frustration but am still a little uncomfortable with blaming the victim. We are what we are, life is messy, and we have not developed cultural norms, rituals and practices to deal with the various manipulations of digital technology which so alluringly offer the hope of a little happiness and in return create for us an increasingly barren environment.

    1. albert

      “…So as far as I’m concerned, people who are still active on Facebook cannot be helped. They should just enjoy the benefits of having their lives exposed to the world and serving as a worthy tool and resource for corporate interests, political shenanigans, election manipulators, jealous exes, and other facts of life….”

      That’s not ‘blaming the victim’. You’re not a victim if you know what you’re getting into, then do it anyway. By seeing the number of excuses people have for using Facebook, it seems they do it in spite of the risks.

      Please suggest how these ‘victims’ can be ‘helped’.
      . .. . .. — ….

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        The crux is they didn’t ask FB to share their data. That fact alone makes them a victim even if you disprove of their lack of common sense or healthy skepticism.

        Imposing an arbitrary set of conditions for some degree of awareness where they must suddenly take the blame for FB’s actions is understandable as frustration, but not as blame assignment. They remain innocent of the act.

        Why stay in?

        1) They may have really become dependent financially and not be able to quickly or easily get out.
        2) They may have come to depend on the social benefits and find it impossible to break.
        3) They may remain unaware of the breach, or they may assume it doesn’t matter

        They never signed a contract saying they were smart.

  26. kgw

    During ancient history (5-10 years in techland), I was attempting to delete SO’s FB accident…As fortune smiled on me, I came across a delightful piece of code named “Seppuku.” Feed it the FB password and it “killed” your FB identity, leaving only a memorial…Waycool!

  27. david lamy

    Pavel at 2:16 am found a link for modifying your hosts file to prevent your computer from sending any data to Facebook.
    Since my browser, lynx avoids the use of javascript my amplification of his comment gets placed in the comment queue by time alone.
    jmdugan has hosts files modifications for not only facebook but google, microsost, pinterest and cloudfare (might want to be careful there!).
    To get all the text files go to a directory you want to store them in and execute:
    git clone https://github.com/jmdugan/blocklists
    This will place a directory named blocklists in your desired location. The hosts file modifications are then in the directory blocklists/corporations.
    I’m assuming you have git, if not, you can obtain it for your operating system at

  28. Bill Carson

    I think we should be far more upset about those services like Equifax that we are involuntarily added to and cannot opt out of. I get credit card offers and unsecured loan offers all the time telling me that I have been pre-approved for a specific amount that just happens to correlate directly with the total balance of all my existing unsecured debt. That tells me that the credit bureaus are freely sharing my financial information with whomever pays them a nominal fee to obtain that information. And God only knows who else has access to that.

    I don’t think it is possible to opt out of facebook or Big Data. If you have a smartphone and are connected to the internet, then “they” know everything about you.

    This hysteria reminds me of the tribal people who didn’t like to have their picture taken, for fear that the image would steal a person’s soul.

  29. Duke De Guise

    Don’t be one of Zuckerberg’s “Dumb F^#*s,” OR

    Contaminate the data, OR

    Pay me for my data, baby!

  30. Ellie C

    Pre-Facebook, I became actively engaged with several online communities, going so far as to meet up with twenty or so members on a number of occasions. Some of those people became true friends. I found that one person lived in the town next to mine, and she has now been a good friend for over 15 years. I have friends across the country and in Europe whom I initially ‘met’ on these sites. My life has been greatly enriched by these experiences, and the friends made.

    Unfortunately, the expense and hassle of keeping these private boards going, for their founders and moderators, eventually led to their demise. Some people continued on Livejournal, and later some of us turned to Facebook. There, I have reconnected or maintained connections with people from high school, college and beyond. That has also been enjoyable, for the most part.

    During the 2016 election and its aftermath, I found myself getting sucked in to arguing with acquaintances and strangers online. Of course that is not constructive or good for one’s psyche. Gradually I stopped following news (and propaganda!) pages to the point where even “liking” a post from someone I don’t personally know is now a rare event. Especially once it became clear that a profile was being constructed by every click.

    The ‘suggested pages’, promos and ads, I ignore or ask not to see any more. I never have and never will purchase anything from a Facebook link.

    The humor, be it daily cartoons or funny animal videos, is a good thing. We can all benefit from a laugh every day. So, for me, a limited presence on social media has turned out well, after a learning curve.

  31. Jonathan Holland Becnel

    Respectively I disagree.

    If anything we should Nationalize Facebook then put those moms in charge of local social networks.

    Facebook fucks up, so we have to suffer?

  32. perpetualWAR

    I quit ALL social media, when in a lawsuit the bank wanted to access to my posts! I immediately deleted all social media from my life. (It would not have been good for the courts to see ‘Jamie Dimon must swing’.)

    I am so glad social media is no longer something that occupies my world. I read more books, meet more neighbors, walk my dog more, and find that life is less contentious.

    1. Bill Carson

      So you intentionally destroyed evidence? You know, it’s never the immediate crime that gets people in trouble: it’s the coverup.

  33. audrey jr

    I just got a new job by going online to Indeed. I had worked in healthcare before I left to raise my children and now am going back to work!
    I had heard during my job search, from many, many people, that the gap in employment was going to be a huge problem, that my age would be a problem, that my lack of any social media would be a problem and so on. I’m sure many of you who are not as ‘connected’ as most folks are these days have been told the same. So I decided to look ‘old school’ style and lo and behold I put in three applications, got one interview and I got the job.
    No one asked me how old I was – not allowed to anymore – and because I look about ten years younger than I am – thanks Dad, Dad’s 80 and looks 65 – it doesn’t seem to be a problem.
    So glad I’ve never Face-borged although all my kids do.

    1. jrs

      yes must be because you are in healthcare, because it seems ever other field out there including much touted fields like tech are harder. 100s of applications and you may get some interviews.

  34. Jim Haygood

    Straight from the horse’s mouth:

    Back in his Harvard days, Mark Zuckerberg told a friend that he could use The Facebook (as it was called back then) to find out anything on anyone.

    “I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS,” Zuckerberg proudly wrote to his friend. “People just submitted it. I don’t know why. They ‘trust me.’ Dumb f*cks.”


    Surveillance capitalism just hit a speed bump. :-(

    1. David May

      “They trust me. Dumb f#cks.”

      I am gonna put that on a t-shirt under a photo of the Zuk.

  35. Nathanael

    Remember, nobody deleted their MySpace accounts. They just… stopped being active. And the platform died.

    That’s how social media platforms die. Though neglect, not through trumpeted action. It will be the same for Facebook.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      But see this:

      Keep in mind, Facebook still likely has access to a good deal of your data long after you’ve deleted your account. Plus, Facebook owns WhatsApp and Instagram . So if you really want to stop feeding data into the Facebook machine, you likely need to go ahead and delete those apps as well.

      So basically all you have stopped is FB nagging you to reactive the account..

  36. Carey

    A perceptive friend of mine once said that their was an inverse correlation between ease and
    quality of communication, and would send me at least a couple of good letters each month,
    to which I’d send an occasional and usually inadequate reply. He was a good man.

  37. Unfettered Fire

    It’s called campaigning! Some FB users chose to fill out questionnaires. Big deal! I’d never do it, but that was their choice. Deep State wants to curb the “excess of democracy” so they want to shut down FB.

  38. Carey

    My understanding is that FaceBorg has a dossier on all of us, regardless of whether or not we’ve had an account with them, or whether we’ve deleted that account. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

  39. Hayek's Heelbiter

    ‘course now, I would never encourage anyone to set up a sock puppet for their FB page, wink wink nudge nudge.

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