In light of the Facebook / Cambridge Analytica "scandal" I've been wondering if it's possible to assume a position of being free of all social networks. Not as a definite plan but rather as an exercise in exploring the feasibility of removing myself from these services.
While I'm not one to buy into the histrionics surrounding the misuse it has rather focussed my mind on the level to which I give my data freely to these service providers and, consequently, weather I should be taking more care in who I share data with. Since there's next to zero actual control over the use of the data supplied to companies like Facebook the only way to win … is not to play.
Let's take the big ones; Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and the really big player (although not technically a social network) Google.
Ok so closing a Facebook account is easy enough. What would I lose? Well in the day to day not masses but I am a user of Facebook for a series of Pages and I'd need to maintain some form of account to access these. I could tear down the old account and spin up a new one with no real content but the viral nature of Facebook means it's hard to keep an account off the grid so how effective this would be remains to be seen.
Sticking point: Pages
Dead easy – there's no real impact beyond the fact that I actually find the content here useful. Shutting down the account would be simplicity itself and there's no real blocker. That said, it's been a useful tool for communicating in the past. Also currently there's no indication that Twitter is mining data to anything like the degree of Facebook although I assume this is coming.
Sticking point: I actually use it.
This is tough as the value in LinkedIn has always been simply being present on the network. That said there's next to no content on my LinkedIn profile and leaving this "professional" system online is probably not likely to result in my being mined in any way that's going to effect me. Also, I rarely read it so the ads, targeted or otherwise, are pretty harmless.
Sticking point: none really but probably safe enough to leave alone
Couple of problems with Insta. First, it's a great platform and I like the transient nature of image based journalling. Second, it's owned by Facebook and is becoming increasingly ad heavy.
Images – I guess I could get round them by using this blog to host them but I don't get the same exposure and, let's be honest, the narcissistic search for peer & public validation is pretty much the reason we share to instagram anyway. The biggest loss would be the workflow but I'm techy enough I can probably get round that.
Sticking point: I want people to see my lovely photos … but probably shouldn't.
Google currently run my email, calendar and file management. I could replace these but it's not gonna be easy. Own Cloud will replace GDrive but doesn't have the same ease of collaboration. Mail is easy to move but the spam issue is ever present. Calendar is really tricky as I've got a pretty nice workflow of shared calendars for the family which would be tough to replicate with Cal Dav.
Then again, I pay for these services so, in theory, Google shouldn't be using my data to feed their ad monster (they say they don't for paid accounts) nor are they affecting the content delivered to me based on this data so the actual impact is minimal.
Sticking point: very heavily integrated and hard to replace.
Where am I going with this?
Based on the above none of the networks or systems are pain free to leave but I can probably work around most of the limitations. So should I close down FaceBook, Twitter et al? Or are we truly living in a post privacy age? Well that's a conclusion for another post.
(Image credit: Privacy Online by BlueCoat Photos)