After a year full of privacy controversies, many social media users are contemplating whether deleting Facebook is the best way to protect their data.
Several have posted online throughout the year, using the hashtag #DeleteFacebook.
The movement gained momentum once again this month, following an alarming New York Times report detailing the massive trove of user data that the company has shared with such companies as Apple, Netflix and Amazon.
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Cybersecurity expert Ajay Sood, who is the general manager of Symantec Canada, told Global News that deleting Facebook isn’t exactly the solution many people think it is — and the reason for that is your “shadow profile” which remains online long after you delete your actual account.
“Facebook has two versions of your profile, your public profile and your shadow profile, which basically sits in the background,” Sood explained. “If your hope in deleting your public profile is that your private or your shadow will go — it just won’t,” he said.
“Once your content hits the internet, it’s basically there forever.”
Sood also explained that search engines will still have access to information that was once public.
That’s why Sood said deleting a Facebook account is largely an “artificial” action when it comes to protecting privacy.
However, deleting will prevent users’ future information from being posted on Facebook and therefore stored online.
“Deleting the profile stops the bleeding, but you’re already hurt. Your information is already out,” Sood said.
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Those who want to boycott Facebook in totality should also consider that the company owns Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger.
Instagram’s website explains that it shares user data with Facebook and vice versa — and also with third-party stakeholders.
“Sharing insights and information with Facebook helps us connect you with others and build a better day-to-day experience for the Instagram community,” it reads.
They also share data with advertisers, for example, if you follow something on Instagram a related ad may show up on Facebook.
Sood explained that WhatsApp in comparison to Instagram operates as more of an “island,” and is less integrated with Facebook.
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However, he still urged caution, noting the example of sexting scandals where users mistakenly thought their messages were private.
“You don’t know what the application, or the recipient, is doing to do with the data [you send],” he explained.
But beyond Facebook-owned social media platforms, Sood said users should also be careful of all apps and websites that collect information — including ones like Twitter and Snapchat.
“My stance on social networking is don’t put anything out there that you wouldn’t put on your front lawn,” Sood explained.
He said that’s especially true for apps that are free.
“Whenever something is completely free, chances are it’s not.”
“The people and the data, those are 100 per cent the product,” he explained, adding that data collectors and advertisers are the customers.
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— With a file from The Associated Press
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.