Why do I dislike Facebook (Fb)?

I was challenged with this question last Thursday when I told my family about the intended changes to the WhatsApp Terms and Conditions of Use. I didn’t reply to my IT-savvy son until this morning when I was first asked to agree to these new Ts&Cs. This is what I wrote …

“It starts with trust, and then you work away from that. It’s what a company does with information and whether you can then trust them to handle it properly. Google+ was a closed system that you opened up; Fb is an open system that even though it has Privacy Controls – which you need a degree to work out how to set them – essentially allows them to do anything with what appears on their platform.

You take a photo – you don’t retain copyright, you assign that right to them when you publish to the platform  – you lose some control over what is done with the photo. You can’t opt out of adverts (understandably – that’s how they make there money) – you are conned into thinking that in allowing them, you will get a better experience.

For whom? For you – no, they’re just an annoyance to me, but for others they just drive people to buy stuff they might not want/need. For them – yes, that’s how they drive income and more.

So it’s the more that’s more interesting and insidious because what they do with that information leads to targeting people with posts, hence my reference to Brexit and Trump. [I had said in my brief first reply – Cambridge Analytica, Brext and Trump.] The algorithms behind the scenes work the data and susceptible people get targeted with posts as well, not just adverts. I could go on, but as I said – it’s all about Trust, and Fb as a company is one that I just don’t trust.

Getting data from WhatsApp was something they committed at take-over they wouldn’t do. Now they are starting to do just that. Next step targeted adverts on a platform which is advert free; then “posts from others you might be interested in” – not the encrypted ones, but ones from Public Figures. Then “oh! dear” we have to drop encryption because of new privacy laws in the US. [Aside: is it a coincidence that Google, Twitter and Fb appear to be more privacy focussed since the Republicans lost control of the Senate and they just might want to be on the right side of the argument that’s going to come in the US in the next four years ].

So I always logout of Fb to stop them tracking me; I suspect that WhatsApp will have a mechanism that prevents a user from being disconnected so Fb with these new Ts&Cs will be tracking as well as getting the other personal info from users.

Please feel free to comment either on the post.

8 thoughts on “Why do I dislike Facebook (Fb)?”

  1. Nodding. I had a similar conversation with Mrs E last night. My dislike is manyfold, but it’s sometimes hard to articulate this without going too far down the “grumpy old man” route – and I do also admit to being that, too…

    For me, and in no particular order

    1) It’s a waste of life. I just don’t need to know most of that stuff, and having sucked on the crack pipe that is Twitter for so long, I’m pretty glad I’m outta there. I do 100% accept that a) I have an addiction problem and b) I’m grumpy and old and this doesn’t necessarily apply: but the circle of people who I *really* care about is actually pretty small, and I’m very happy with that.

    2) I hate, and have always hated, the walled-gardenness of it. This works in both directions – there’s nothing worse than someone sending a link to a thing and you having to sign in (to Facebook / anywhere!) to see it, and there’s similarly an irritation when you know there is probably interesting content in there which can’t be seen by external searches

    3) All the copyright and visibility stuff. All the “who knows who can see X” stuff. I think this is probably better now, but for years it wasn’t, and pictures of our kids “leaked out” so anyone could see them even though Mrs E had flagged them as private, because FB changed some obscure setting. This erodes trust hugely.

    4) The telemetry. I am SO pissed off with companies passing user data around in a mind-bogglingly opaque way. I’ve had a Pi-hole [https://pi-hole.net/] installed at home now for a couple of years, and it’s a) fantastic but b) scary – on any given week, roughly *12% of all traffic* is blocked. This is ad, tracking, telemetry stuff. I also use Brave (or Firefox, depending) and the usual suite of tools to kill unwanted tracking. This stuff is just horrendous. I recommend the Pi-hole as a good nerd project btw, if you don’t have one 🙂

    I have had endless conversations with people about privacy. I tell them to watch The Social Dilemma [https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/81254224] . And then if they give me the “I have nothing to hide” line, I ask them to unlock their smartphone and give to a stranger in the street. That normally shuts them up 🙂

  2. We’re at one then on Fb! Some commentary on your points:

    1) Totally agree, but I do feel a heel as some very good and nice people I really do like are on both Fb and twitter and I miss them. I have started popping in to twitter now and then but for my sanity I have a separate twitter ID which I only use with a very few close friends and family. As for Fb – logout, logout, logout – that’s the message I preach to U3A folk, but at least that stops the tracking. My suspicion is that WhatsApp is effectively “always on” and so the link to Fb is not good news. I’ve just been sent this link – https://bit.ly/2LdddHC – you might find it interesting reading, especially towards the end when the links to Fb and the future are made clear.

    2) Yep! Yesterday I even re-visited at tumblr (now owned by Automattic – missed that) as a way of creating communities, but no obvious advantages over personal blogs. Everyone should have one; should be part of the national curriculum 🙂

    3) I don’t think the Copyright issue is resolved. Last time I looked at Fb Ts&Cs you effectively gave away all rights and as an active amateur photographer who has no interest in making money out of their interest, I don’t want anyone else to do so. I use CC for my images, they would be over-ridden by Fb Ts&Cs, I believe, so … I don’t put any photos now on Fb and I’ve stopped using my Photography Page. I should stop using Instagram as well, but … another day.

    4) Thanks for the tip. My family already think I’m off the nerdy-scale but VPNs and now Pi-hole can be added to the growing list of things I “must” get round to.

    Cheers.

  3. Ah thanks for the Forbes piece, will read!

    I’m not sure logging out helps. See https://about.fb.com/news/2018/04/data-off-facebook/

    “When you visit a site or app that uses our services, we receive information even if you’re logged out or don’t have a Facebook account. This is because other apps and sites don’t know who is using Facebook.”

    …also I would imagine it’s not something people relish doing…

    1. That makes Fb even more insidious than I thought. I follow the logic. I’ll have to correct my advice to be a warning rather than a recommendation. Thanks Mike.

  4. Hi David (and Mike)
    Yes there are lots of things wrong with FAcebook 9and we’ll hear more today with the Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen giving evidence to MPs.
    And I still use it – regularly (I particularly enjoy Chris Gutteridge’s evidence-based posts about Covid rate.
    But there’s one factual error in your post I feel I should comment on:
    “You take a photo – you don’t retain copyright, you assign that right to them when you publish to the platform.”
    As you can read at
    https://www.copytrack.com/blog/copyright/does-facebook-own-my-pictures
    “Facebook doesn’t take ownership for pictures you post on their platform. Facebook specifically states that “You own the content you create and share on Facebook and the other Facebook products you use, and nothing in these terms takes away the rights you have to your own content. You are free to share your content with anyone else, wherever you want.”

    Yes Facebook is walled-garden(ish) (I have an app which allows me to download videos which I use from time to time) – but then so is paper (and I have lots of pieces of paper which are typically bundled together as a ‘book’ with scary warning about copyright included in the front).

    Privacy, disinformation, failure to protect the vulnerable, etc are legitimate concerns – but don’t weaken the argument by factual inaccuracies!

    1. Hi Brian (and Mike)

      Thanks for your comment; I’ll edit appropriately. I can see I went OTT a bit. I must have heard that told to me and didn’t check it, so thanks for the reference which makes the Copyright ownership clear. However … I think what I was trying to say, and please come back if I’ve got this wrong, is that once you’ve uploaded a photo to Fb you lose control of what can be done with that photo. Now … this may have changed with the changes to Privacy and Security that have been introduced subsequent to me just about exiting the platform, but any default that is not “Do Not Use”, or Do Not Share without permission” is about as bad as not retaining copyright, which I acknowledge you have corrected me on.

      Cheers. David.

  5. Hi David
    Thanks for the reply.
    I think we’re focussing on the issue of loss of control over images uploaded to Facebook (rather than ownership, or other issues which we probably agree on).
    Interestingly I’ll shortly be encouraging morris dance sides to upload photos and videos to WikiMedia Commons, in order to raise visibility of traditional dance.
    One concern I expect photographers (especially those who take quality photos rather than hobbyists) to raise is a loss of control, once an open licence is granted – which is a requirement for uploading content to WikiMedia Commons (as is also the case for WikiPedia).
    I’ve written a number of documents related to WikiMedia Commons (advisory documents 7-10) and surveys (5-7) at
    https://www.morrisfed.org.uk/resources/it/
    So if you go to a photo, such as:
    https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Belles_of_London_City_at_Lyme_Regis_17_July_2021.png
    you can edit the metadata or use the image anywhere (provided you abide by the one condition – that you give acknowledgments to the source.
    So the image could legitimately be used by the hard right in a poster saying “Keep English culture white”.
    I understand why people may wish to control their intellectual content, so that it can’t be used in ways they disagree with (as is happening with rock/pop songs used at Trump events).
    But are you saying people shouldn’t contribute to WikiMedia Commons / Wikipedia in order to maintain control?
    And remember that there are some pressures on companies such as Facebook to ensure their content isn’t used in ways which are illegal or contravene theirs terms (i.e. they can delete Covid denial content which doesn’t belong to them even if it’s not illegal).

    In brief I disagree with the suggestion that
    “any default that is not “Do Not Use”, or Do Not Share without permission” is about as bad as not retaining copyright”

    And if you suggest that that rule should apply to Facebook but not WikiMedia, then isn’t that a discriminatory?

    Hmm, do you want a walled garden with even higher walls?

    Thinking some more, open source software can be used by anyone for any purpose – there’s a loss of control which open source contributors accept.

    Cheers

    Brian

    1. Yes Brian, in a way I think I am, but only in the sense that I think to protect the naive poster of a photo the default should be as I have suggested – to protect them from themselves. I certainly wouldn’t want to prevent anyone from opening up access to, and use of, a photograph; but the default I believe should be “do not use”.

      By all means open the walled garden, but with a company as hopeless at creating usable and understandable privacy, I would suggest the default should be closed, with a step to open being necessary.

      One example. A naive user posts a photo of one of his/her children which is then used by Fb, or indeed another user, and before too long that image goes viral. That naive user can do nothing to close down the access/use of the photo. That can’t be right.

      PS The photographer in me is aghast at the thought of someone other than the originator editing metadata – that’s about as bad as “photoshopping” an image!!!

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