Facebook’s Reverse Halo

Last month I pondered whether it’s time to leave Facebook. Things have only gotten worse for the social network since then. It seems every week now we learn of new ways in which the company has mishandled the personal information we’ve entrusted it. A couple of days ago, The New York Times published a report that alleges the company shared their users’ private information with various other large tech companies. Just yesterday, the District of Columbia sued Facebook over the Cambridge Analytica incident. Wired has a running list of all the scandals thus far this year.

Still, results from a new study from Tufts University​ suggest it would take a thousand dollars for a typical Facebook user to leave. That sounds high for the way I use Facebook. Many other information environments have more value to me. Since I wrote my “is it time to leave?” post, I’ve significantly reduced my interactions in Facebook; I haven’t missed being there as much as I thought I would.

Facebook owns other properties that I’d find much harder to give up. One in particular — WhatsApp — would be worth a lot more than a thousand dollars to me, since that’s where I stay in touch with my family and friends in Panama. (I’d love to get them all to chat with me on Messages.app, but that isn’t likely to happen since many of them are Android users.)

The stuff I share in WhatsApp is much more sensitive to me than anything I’ve ever shared through Facebook. When I read stories like the one in the NY Times, I worry. I wonder how much sway Facebook (the company) has over the way WhatsApp handles personal data. It would be a real loss to me if I had to leave this environment where I meet my loved ones. That said, the constant stream of news regarding Facebook’s cavalier attitude to privacy is eroding my trust in WhatsApp as well.