So Facebook is bad, and you’ve decided to quit.
There’s just one, rather large problem: When it comes to the social media giant, quitting is not the same thing as being free. That’s because over its 14 years in existence, Facebook has aggressively wormed its way into the lives of its users — both current and past.
And the company knows way more about you than just what you’ve intentionally shared.
The most prominent example of this is the so-called shadow profile. It was revealed in 2013 that the company’s profiles of its users included information outside of the normal scope of a Facebook account. Things like your non-Facebook associated email or your phone number — even if you’ve never purposefully handed it over — are likely on the company’s servers and pegged to your real-world identity.
This is the result of Facebook’s practice of asking for, and often receiving, permission from your friends to upload their contacts in order to discover others on the network they may know. In addition to helping you find that friend of a friend that you don’t really care about, this access has given Facebook an unparalleled view into the lives of the billions of people both on and off its platform.
What’s more, Facebook announced in 2016 that intended to show ads to non-users across the web. Following this news, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Palo Alto-based advertising behemoth would “collect information about all Internet users” via cookies and “like” buttons scattered across the web.
That’s right, even if you’ve never had a Facebook account, the company could still be tracking you — and making a profit in the process. Thankfully, there is a small glimmer of hope. Bloomberg reported in February that a Belgian court ruled Facebook must stop tracking non users. While this is good news, it doesn’t solve the immediate problem for everyone not residing in Belgium. And anyway, Facebook said it would appeal the decision.
But don’t get dispirited! All of this is not to say that you shouldn’t delete your Facebook account. You absolutely should. Honestly, you won’t miss that much. And while you’re at it, go ahead and ditch Facebook-owned Instagram too (the algorithmic timeline has made it a frustrating mess, anyway). For good measure, also get rid of WhatsApp — try Signal instead.
Oh, and by “delete” we mean delete. Facebook is very good at making it difficult to leave its soul-sucking ecosystem. Those that attempt to do so are directed to the option to “deactivate” an account, which is very much not the same thing as deletion. To truly delete your account you have to navigate your way through a bunch of garbage options before you are finally presented the real chance to make an escape.
Even when you finally do pull the proverbial trigger, Facebook is going to take its sweet time letting you go. The company claims it may take up to 90 days to remove your information from its servers. And remember, the company still tracks non users across the web — but there’s no reason you need to make it easier for Mark Zuckerberg and co.
The internet existed before Facebook, and hopefully there will come a time when it exists post Facebook. While deleting your account won’t translate to a 100 percent Facebook-free life, it’s looking like a better first step each and every passing day.