“#DeleteFacebook it’s lame”. This was a tweet by Elon Musk, which became the first call by a prominent technology leader for Facebook to be deleted in 2020. Photo: John Raoux/AP
“#DeleteFacebook it’s lame”. This was a tweet by Elon Musk, which became the first call by a prominent technology leader for Facebook to be deleted in 2020. Photo: John Raoux/AP

Deactivating Facebook does not guarantee your privacy

By Wesley Diphoko Time of article published Feb 14, 2020

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CAPE TOWN – “#DeleteFacebook it’s lame”. This was a tweet by Elon Musk, which became the first call by a prominent technology leader for Facebook to be deleted in 2020.

Musk is not alone in advocating for Facebook to be deleted and joins a massive group of Facebook critics. The call to delete the social media platform is not new, it is mainly inspired by genuine concerns that Facebook abuses personal data and immense power by its leader.

Although it has become fashionable to shout #DeleteFacebook it is important to acknowledge the fact that there’s no #DeleteFacebook button. It is misleading to suggest that deleting Facebook is the solution to the challenge brought to society by surveillance capitalists.

The truth of the matter is that whether you delete Facebook or not and your account is deactivated, the social network continues collecting data about your online activities.

It’s important to understand that Facebook monitors not just Facebook as a website or app, but online activity across the web, including the browsing habits of members who have logged out or people who don't have accounts.

So deactivating Facebook does nothing to protect your privacy.

The main culprit in the regard is the share button, which is on millions of web pages. It collects data allowing advertisers to see what kind of content you're viewing. This is partly the reason why you're likely to see ads for food, clothing or cars in your Facebook feed even if you've been visiting a lot of food, clothing and cars websites.

The call for Facebook to be deleted will not solve the data abuse challenges that society is experiencing currently. Other companies abuse data.

Shoshan Zuboff nailed this challenge in her book, Surveillance Capitalism. Zuboff says data has become the most important resource for companies and it's not just technology companies.

Even traditional businesses such as car companies have identified data as a key resource and will soon collect driver and vehicle data.

Instead of calling for Facebook to be deleted there should be a call for new laws and new global data governance framework that will guide companies and safeguard society from data abuses.

Facebook has done something important for the world, which is often forgotten. Before Facebook it was difficult for people to connect across the world. Lawmakers have failed to draft laws that can ensure that businesses can operate without harming user rights.

Digital companies have brought us new experiences that are making our lives better, such as Uber in the transportation and logistics sector. At the same time, these have brought challenges that require an alignment. There's no wisdom in deleting tech platforms when we identify their imperfection.

Imagine if the first car accidents were followed by a call to ban or stop cars. Musk's car company, Tesla, would not exist today if vehicles were stopped or banned.

Wesley Diphoko is the editor-in-chief of Fast Company (SA) Magazine. He also serves as the chairperson of the IEEE Open Data Initiative. You can reach him via email: [email protected] or via Twitter: @WesleyDiphoko

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