'You can't morally approve what Facebook has done'

| Meilani Halim , Bas Leijser

In this series, our student writers ask other UT students about their opinion on a variety of controversial topics. Be it on a worldwide scale or a bit smaller, these students share their food for thought. This time: deleting Facebook (or not!), your online privacy, and how dependent we are on Facebook as a social medium.

Photo by: Thought Catalog on Unsplash

facebook privacy scandal

It is commonly known that Facebook collects data on its users, but its full extent was revealed in Facebook’s most recent privacy scandal. Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, stood on trial for the company’s advertising and privacy protection policies, in light of the 87 million users’ data retained without consent by political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica. Data protection laws in the United States, where Facebook is founded, have been lax enough to allow this sort of data collection to pass as not technically illegal. However, on May 25th 2018 the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into effect, making leaps and bounds towards strict and all-encompassing data protection policies.

On the 11th of April, about 10,000 people in the Netherlands deleted their Facebook in response to Arjen Lubach’s ‘Delete Facebook’ campaign. In the weeks after, there was a worldwide controversy on the way people’s data is being collected by Facebook. We asked Christian Orriëns, master student of Psychology, Sjoerd Yska, bachelor student of Industrial Design, and Lukas Remmerden, bachelor student of Communication Science, to give their opinions on this matter.

Why did you or did you not delete Facebook account?

Remmerden: ‘I did not delete my account because I am waiting for the GDPR to be enforced, after which I can claim the right to be forgotten and request all online information on me to be erased.’

Yska: ‘I deleted my account recently, mainly because of the privacy issues. Before that, I already considered quitting, and then with ‘Zondag met Lubach’ I went through with it.’

Orriëns: ‘I still have Facebook, but I considered quitting. Back in high school, when Hyves was popular, someone made a profile for me, but not in a good way. So, I mainly have my account to state: this is my actual profile, this is the real me.’

Are people dependent on Facebook?

Orriëns: ‘If you don’t have it, you have fear of missing out. Actually, it’s no longer just fear, we’ve come to the point where you are actually missing out if you’re not on Facebook. For example, the central platform for study association events is Facebook, so without an account you would have to ask a board member or read a newsletter to figure out what’s going on.’

Yska: ‘I understand why people don’t delete their accounts. There’s indeed a fear of missing out on events and Facebook has a lot of connections with other apps, such as automatic logins. While nobody likes that their data is collectively being used, they don’t want to give all that up either. However, in life you miss out  on things anyway, so I don’t share that fear.’

How do you feel about the way Facebook collects and shares your data?

Remmerden: ‘I don’t get why people complain that much. They all agreed to the terms of service, which state that Facebook and third parties collect certain data, like your phone records, pictures, et cetera. So, people shouldn’t have clicked ‘I Agree’ if they didn’t want that.’

Orriëns: ‘It is true that users agree to their data being collected, however, there are a lot of people on Facebook who are incapable of comprehending what exactly this means. For example, I have a nephew who has an intellectual disability and falls under that category. So, while I can make a deliberate choice about using Facebook, some people may not be able to. I think Remmerden’s argument only applies to people of average and above average intelligence, but the others are the most vulnerable in this situation.’

Is deleting Facebook a form of boycotting, or is it also effective in protecting your privacy?

Yska: ‘I think it is mainly a form of boycotting. Maybe it will cause other companies to also start thinking about privacy issues and be more transparent.’

Orriëns: ‘It will give other companies the signal that there’s a market for apps that protect users’ privacy. Facebook needs to rethink their business plan, or another company will come in and fill this gap, and Facebook may just die out like so many other social media platforms of the past.’

Remmerden: ‘I think it can be effective as a boycott. Compare it to vegetarianism: if one person does it, more can follow. But, I also think you have to be aware that Facebook owns Instagram and Whatsapp, so if you really don’t want Zuckerberg to have your data, then you have to go all the way and delete those apps as well.’

What Facebook has done, was it a genuine mistake, or can we call it greedy or perhaps even ‘evil’?

Remmerden: ‘I think it is good that Facebook raised the debate about privacy through their multiple scandals, but that wasn’t their intent, so they do not deserve credit for it.’

Orriëns: ‘You can’t morally approve what Facebook has done, but someone had to make the mistake. There were no laws against what Facebook was doing, so they thought it’s okay to do it. But, that’s abuse of power as a company. What Facebook can do now is look at these issues from a broader perspective rather than just consider the law and see what’s allowed and what’s not. So, I think they were really well aware of what they were doing - Zuckerberg isn’t stupid - and it was more greed than anything else.’

Yska: ‘They, as a company, are mostly focused on money and don’t care about ethics as long as what they do is right by the law. So, the only thing that helps is to get those laws right, because Facebook won’t do much.’

Orriëns: ‘I agree that the laws have to change, but technology is evolving at an increased rate, and the laws are just not keeping up. There has to be a deeper ethical structure governing it.’