Perhaps you have always resisted Facebook; there’s no chance, you say of creating an account on Big Brother. Well, whether you like it or not, Facebook has perhaps created a file on YOU. Facebook is continually accumulating data on Internet users—whether they have a Facebook account or not. That’s correct, you read right—even if you don’t have a Facebook account. As soon as a Facebook member e-mails you via the platform, for instance, Facebook creates a profile on you! If you’re surprised now, wait until you read the rest. . .
It all started by reading an article in Figaro (1) titled "Les étranges profils fantômes de Facebook » (strange Facebook ghost profiles), which tells the tale of a young Austrian law student who fought Facebook tooth and nail to get all the data it had about him in its database. N
Not easily believing in conspiracy theories and being naturally sceptical, we checked out a few links provided by the journalist. The image below is cut and paste from a Facebook help page (2). Check it out. . . we did, because we just couldn’t believe what we were reading. The text under the second paragraph states: "I do NOT have a Facebook account and I would like Facebook to stop storing my information in their database." Facebook is therefore acknowledging that it collects data on you, even if you do not have a Facebook account. . . Now just imagine the quantity of information gathered on you when you do have a Facebook account. It is not for nothing that the company has started building its third data centre in northern Sweden, close to the Arctic, to benefit from geothermal cooling for the servers. The site will cover an area equal to 11 football fields, which will be full of servers (3).
. . . and that’s not all!
Now that we’ve got your attention, here’s the really juicy part. The student succeeded in obtaining his entire Facebook file, which contained more than 1,200 pages of text and a DVD, covering 57 categories (NOTE) of information. All the information he had shared since creating his account had been carefully archived and kept by Facebook. Even the messages he had erased had been stored. . . with the mention "erased." Photos, discussions, e-mails, names of friends, and even names deleted from his list of contacts—everything was in his file. The larger question is why does Facebook keep all this data? Officially, it’s because hanging on to it allows members to recover it if they change their minds about no longer being on Facebook. If you decide to stop being a Facebook member, the platform will suggest that you deactivate rather than delete your account. We challenge you, though, to find the page allowing you to delete your account for good. It exists, and we will provide its address in the references, but Facebook makes it hard to find, in order to encourage you to temporarily deactivate your account, which gives them the legal right to keep your data.
Facebook is not your friend!
The fact that the platform is free and enables you to connect with family and friends on a daily basis creates confusion as to Facebook’s objectives. You end up believing that the site is some kind of non-profit organization designed to allow you to more easily and frequently communicate with loved ones. This is unfortunately an overly romantic vision. Facebook is a company whose purpose is to make money and its raw material is your personal data. It transforms your messages, photos, emotions and contacts into marketing information for multinationals that use it to better segment their markets and target their strategies.
Should you leave Facebook?
Facebook is a fabulous tool for many families, allowing them to stay in touch and keep others up to speed on what’s happening in their lives with a disconcerting simplicity. It would be a shame to pass up Facebook for this. However, keeping in mind what you now know: that everything you post, every document you share will be kept on the platform forever, you should systematically ask yourself what would happen if what you are posting were to be on the six o’clock news. Check out the excellent CBC report titled "Facebook Follies" (4). And then, if you are still comfortable sharing moments of your life with your circle of "friends," press "ENTER."