(Mostly) leaving Facebook behind

There's hardly a week goes by that Facebook isn't in the news for one thing or another - usually something privacy related.  Privacy and data protection have been firmly on everyone in Europe's radar following the introduction of the new data protection laws (GDPR) in May 2018; and being in the IT industry as a career makes it all the the more important to get right.

Being an IT worker I'm not always the most sociable, and as a result social media is something which doesn't come naturally.  I tried (a long time ago) doing the whole sharing anything I was doing, but it wasn't (and still isn't) who I am.  I then went on to only share important things in my life, such as my wedding, holidays (once I got back), and the birth of my son.  Over time, I've spent less and less on there and more just enjoying my time.

I finally removed Facebook from my phone when I changed jobs in April.  I realised quickly it wasn't something I missed, and slowly stopped using it on my laptop, to the point where I simply don't go on it. I made this choice for a couple of reasons:

  1. Privacy
  2. Time saving

The most important of that to me is actually the latter.  I can always choose what I share on the platform to protect my privacy, but Facebook (and other social networks) are designed to keep you logged on or interacting one way or another to spend time on their platform.  This might be by sharing new things, playing games, or simply refreshing to see if there's anything new from your friends on the platform - there's usually not, but you'll still spend 10 minutes refreshing in the hope of something new.  By removing the draw of Facebook, I have more free time to do other things which are important to me (study, research, spend time with family).

Privacy, though important, is secondary to me in this instance.  I know Facebook have privacy controls to limit who my data are shared with, but after the Cambridge Analytica fiasco, it's not something you can trust to keep data safe.  Over time, I've also grown apart from some of the people I'm connected to on the platform, but there's a psychological barrier preventing people from "unfriending" people, so you'd end up sharing things with people you might not want to, yet you would still do it.

So logically, I'm done with Facebook, right?  Not quite.  For some reason, some of my friends still insist on communicating via Messenger rather than text or phone call, so I need it for that.  There's other communication methods people prefer to use, like WhatsApp, which is Facebook owned - so I'm stuck with that, too.  

There's other reasons I can't break free too.  Facebook single-sign on.  That glorious "log on with Facebook" button on websites.  If I got rid of my Facebook account, there's a number of sites I wouldn't be able to log in to anymore.  Some of these allow me to set a password and use that to log in going forward, but others won't allow switching the account type to allow me to log in, and it has important information associated with it.

So here I am, limiting Facebook usage to be account log-in for certain places, but avoiding it for others.  It's also made me think a lot about other single-sign on options.  Whilst it may be the way forward for a lot of people, there needs to be serious consideration given to the data privacy, and how data are going to be used by those single-sign-on operators.