Staff Columnist

Where is the 'dislike' button?

(Photo Illustration by Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
(Photo Illustration by Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Not for the first time I’m looking at Facebook, probing feelings of distrust and channeling Jack Twist on Brokeback Mountain. That’s right, Facebook, I wish I knew how to quit you.

I was introduced to Facebook in 2006, by a Harvard graduate who came to Iowa to work on a presidential campaign. That was three years before I could “like” anything on the platform, and four years before I could tag friends. And, yes, even back then it was understood that Facebook trafficked in personal data.

With each new “update” I’ve diligently tweaked security settings, refusing to let the network have full access to my life or wallet. Still, a lot of history can be built over the course of 12 years, especially when one partner isn’t being open or transparent; and no doubt a lot of profit was made on the back of my data and content.

Like so many others, the reasons I’ve stuck around have little to do with Facebook, and much to do with far-flung friends and family. It’s a tempting, and costly, convenience — a hard-to-bypass digital drug.

This isn’t an issue my two youngest children have. They long ago sought and found technological refuge in places they aren’t as easily tracked, especially by their father and me. Having weighed the cost of privacy, my kids and millions more have decided Facebook simply isn’t worth it.

Thanks to recent headlines and news reports showing just how well Facebook has perfected surveillance as a business model, I’m inclined to decide the same.

Last week, Facebook suspended the accounts of Cambridge Analytica, a company that worked for the Trump campaign, and a professor, Aleksandr Kogan, who is known to have deceptively taken and used personal data from more than 50 million people without their consent — a development partner “feature” that has since been patched, so Facebook says. Perhaps such statements would be more credible if the ouster of these bad actors hadn’t come more than two years after Facebook became aware of the problem.

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Consider it: More than two years has gone by, and not one person who may have had private data taken without consent has been alerted. Where the data set is today, or exactly what personally identifiable information it contains, is anyone’s guess.

To compound the problem, Facebook’s leadership is hiding, thwarting the questions of lawmakers here and abroad.

Did the company violate the terms of its 2011 agreement with the Federal Trade Commission? Facebook isn’t answering.

Have other so-called “bad actors” been allowed to keep and manipulate user data gathered before platform changes were made? Facebook hasn’t said.

Would the network favor a revival of the privacy bill of rights proposed in 2012? Doubtful, although consumers should demand it.

It’s more evidence the privacy toll we thought we were paying is far higher than we realized. And another clue that our kids are more savvy than we are.

We’ve been together a long time, Facebook, but today is the day I start learning how to quit you.

• Comments: @LyndaIowa, (319) 368-8513, lynda.waddington@thegazette.com

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