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Tech.

Facebook: My thoughts on user privacy and news feed clutter

Facebook has been at the centre of a media storm within the last year, particularly around privacy of user data and the spread of fake news. 

The Cambridge Analytica scandal had a major effect on how I view the social media platform and I think about my data. If you’re not familiar with the scandal, an app developer shared millions of facebook user data to Cambridge Analyica, the political consulting firm who worked with Trump during his election campaign to help him win, using this data to help target users with political advertising, unknowingly to Facebook users.  

We’ve all used the “login with Facebook” button at some point, because, lets face it, it makes logging into web services so much easier. But when we do this, do we really think about what data we’re sharing with the service you’re logging into?! The information that can be shared using this button is your name, email address, date of birth, friends lists and your current city. 

If you look in your app and website settings in Facebook you can see all of the services where you’ve logged in with your Facebook data, and what information you’re sharing with that company.  When I had a look at mine, it shocked me to see how much stuff i’m sharing with apps that I haven’t used in years. I’ve revoked access to apps with my data that I don’t use anymore and for those that I do use, have edited how much data I share. I never share my friends lists with apps anymore because I don’t see a good enough reason to share this. 

Talking of my friends lists and privacy, I decided to move my Facebook from semi private to completely private, and remove friends that I’ve never met. I want my Facebook to be a space I share with my actual, real life friends. I can meet other people and share other information on Twitter and Instagram, which are my public spaces.

I’ve also been thinking about the content on my news feed recently. There is no doubt in my mind, despite what Facebook’s current advertising campaign is trying to portray,  I don’t think it can ever get back to the original format of people just sharing pictures, videos and statuses about their life. No longer am I seeing people sharing life moments as much as memes. It has become over crowded with people sharing Ladbible and UniLad articles and videos, which I often find are clickbait, and some of the worst journalism i've ever read. For this reason, I have blocked these two dominating pages from my Facebook because I am sick of seeing the content. I honestly don’t care about 10 facts about myself based on my choice of cheese that I can find out by clicking here (<< don't click it won't work).  

I, like many others have lost trust in Facebook to handle my data with care. They are not being upfront enough with how personal data is being used, although this is also partially my ignorance for allowing my data to be used knowing full well that Facebook use user data to advertise. Facebook started as a private place to share information with friends, it is now a sort of private, sort of public mess, but still claim to be a private place, unlike Twitter and Instagram, where I know my things are public.  For me, each platform has a purpose and this is why I use an array of social media because I share and gain different things on each platform. Facebook is for my real life friends and Twitter and Instagram is for the wider world. 

I will however, not be part of the #DeleteFacebook movement. Although I see flaws with Facebook, it is invaluable as a communication tool, so, I will continue to use it, but in future I will more careful to watch where my data is used. 

Adam Hale