Let me start by saying that I am IN NO WAY defending Facebook's botched handling of user privacy as it relates to Cambridge Analytica. What they did was stupid, shortsighted and they deserve whatever is coming for them. Also, I'm not going to tell you how to fix your privacy woes, assuming you have them. If you are staying on Facebook, my friend Dwight Silverman over at the Houston Chronicle, has a fantastic write up on how better protect your information.
I'm here to tell you that all the complaining is getting you nowhere and, if you are that upset, quit and delete your account. Or stay online and deal with it. Whatever the case, here are the reasons why your complaining doesn't matter.
Everything you do online is recorded.
Like everything. Your browser history, purchases, reading material, downloads, profile updates, blog posts, social media posts, comments, videos, photos (especially photos) are on there forever. It is nearly impossible to dial back your information once it has been put online. It doesn't matter if it is Amazon, Facebook or your website, once it goes online, it stays online and very rarely disappears.
And that isn't even counting the things that are supposed to be private like email, bank information, social security, text messages, etc. But, most of those things are safe behind a password-protected login, and since you are using at least 14 character, mixed-case, number and symbol-filled passwords, you should be fine. What's that? Your default password is password123 like about 100 million other people? That sound you hear is me slapping my head against my desk.
You are the one choosing to engage.
We all know the internet is addicting. We are attached to it day and night thanks to mobile technology. But, that doesn't have to be your choice. You could unplug. You could disconnect from the online world. You could. But you probably won't. Most of us are hopelessly dependent on what the internet provides. Whether that is news or cute kitty photos, we can't go more than 20 minutes without checking on things, messaging friends or watching a video of a guy running into a glass door. It never gets old.
And you are responsible for what you share with the online world.
No one forced you to post a picture of yourself hammered on St. Patrick's Day that cost you the job you were trying to get at that high end law firm. That was all you, buddy. You don't have to take online quizzes on questionable websites. You think that information is just disappearing into the ether? Think again. We have turned into a society of oversharers. TMI should be tattooed across all our foreheads. Maybe be more judicious about what you post. You probably close your blinds when you change clothes and lock your door at night. Those are sensible ways to protect your privacy. You can be sensible online too.
Facebook (and all social media) is free.
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This is something everyone seems to conveniently forget. We aren't paying Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or YouTube or Google a dime. They get that from advertising and that advertising is made more valuable when they know what you like, how you think, what motivates you. In some ways, it is good for us. I don't really need to see advertisements for Depends (not yet, anyway), so keeping those ads at bay while dropping information about things I like in my feed makes sense.
The truth is no one would pay for a service that connects us like this. Ask Classmates.com. We want everything online to be free because we have become spoiled by all the stuff that is already. With that comes compromises like people figuring out what you like and trying to sell it to you, sometimes aggressively.
You're not being very smart online.
All of the above leads to one simple conclusion: you need to be smarter. Don't say you don't understand technology or reading the terms of service is boring, and then realize later you signed up for something you didn't really want. Take your privacy online seriously and do what needs to be done to protect it. It's not rocket science, truly. We can and should all figure it out. It would make everyone a hell of a lot safer and the internet a much more pleasant place to be.