Saturday, May 6, 2017

A Guide to Escaping Facebook’s Evil Clutches

Earlier this week, leaked documents revealed Facebook can identify when teenagers feel “stressed”, “defeated” and “overwhelmed” and could use this information to target advertisements. According to The Australian, the social network told a top Australian bank that they could monitor young users’ emotional states and target them when they’re feeling insecure. Facebook claimed the report was misleading. Headlines ensued.

While it’s disturbing that Facebook can – and according to one ex-employee, does – do this, the technology involved isn’t the stuff of a harrowing dystopian novel. The report says Facebook can determine when young people feel “anxious”, “nervous”, “stupid”, “silly”, “useless” and a “failure” – to which, duh. It can most likely tell this because these are literally options on Facebook’s “Feeling” button (yep, even “useless”), which allows users to post a status about their emotional state. The most shocking thing about the report, then, is that teenagers are bothering to tell Facebook how they feel at all.

Facebook is dead. Not only do headlines like the above surface every week about the network’s dodgy dystopian dealings (here’s a list of every Facebook controversy in 2016), the site also simply isn’t cool. No one likes Facebook. No wants to be on Facebook. But we all keep using it.

Why? A Twitter search for the words “want to delete Facebook but” reveals a myriad of reasons. Some don’t want to lose pictures, others need to keep in touch with friends and family, others need it for their jobs, or to remember birthdays. Facebook is incredibly troubling – but it’s also incredibly useful, meaning all too often the “Delete Account” button remains untouched.

So what do you do if you don’t want Facebook to turn you into a puppet for its mind-control games, but still also really want to look at Sarah from Year Nine’s new baby to remind you that oh my God, babies really can look that weird?

1. Review what Facebook knows about you

Are you ready to be shocked? Visit to find out everything that Facebook knows about you (and uses to send you ads).

Under “Your interests”, click through the tabs such as “Hobbies and activities” and “Shopping and fashion” to view the very specific things Facebook knows. It can be very eerie (it knows I like the colour red, chicken nuggets, and Harry Potter) and also hilariously wrong (it thinks I like Prince Charles, a singular “eyelash”, and the sport curling).

Whether it’s right or wrong, the sheer amount Facebook knows is sure to unnerve. Under the “Your information” tab (scroll down from “Your interests”), the site knows what it defines as “Your categories” – things such as your political leanings, the devices you use, and how many close friends have their birthdays coming up. It knows that I have housemates, am a millennial, and am “close friends of ex-pats”.

by Amelia Tate, The New Statesman |  Read more:
Image: Getty/Facebook/New Statesman