The Final Straw
I've finally done it. I've deleted my Facebook account.
I don't expect any kudos for this news; deleting your Facebook account is the prudent thing to do these days. Heck, my mother deleted her account seven months ago. For the last several months, my account has been deactivated, my profile a blank slate: no statuses, no photos, no likes or shares. The only reason it survived this long was Messenger, since I did not want my friends to have a hard time reaching me.
So what changed? What finally caused me to press the Big Blue Button?
I have an unlimited mobile Hotspot (from the Calyx Institute) so I can access the internet wherever I have a reliable signal, which is in most urban areas. Oftentimes, when going about my day, I quickly disconnect and reconnect, which occasionally assigns me a new IP address from a nearby city. Some sites, including Facebook, interpret this as a “new location.” Trying to log in from this “new location” locks your account, as the site thinks you're a bad actor.
Now, other sites like Discord handle logging in from a new location reasonably, in my opinion: they make you complete a captcha, send you an email, and — boom! — you're back in. A little annoying, sure, but not too tedious. Facebook does not take this approach. Instead, it asks you to input personal information about yourself and others, which I am unwilling to do.
I was presented with three options to verify my identity and unlock my account:
- Enter your phone number. I did not have my phone number attached to my Facebook account, so I am unsure how they can verify this information. Maybe a friend of mine imported their contacts into Facebook and my name and number was on that list. Oh well, not much I can do about that. But I'm not going to validate my number for them, so what's next?
- Tag your friends in photos. This one seems innocent enough, but I feel like tagging my friends in photos is helping Facebook train its facial recognition software, and I don't know if my friends consented to that. I feel like selecting this option would be violating their right to privacy, so it's also a no-go. What's left?
- Verify your birthday. Ah, yes, the only piece of profile information that remains on my profile. I guess this one is okay since it's on my profile. I entered my birthday, but I decided that I didn't want Facebook to know it from now on. Thus, once I logged back in I tried to remove it from my profile. Turns out you can't. I get it, they have to make sure I'm over 13, but nobody lies about their age on the internet, right? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I managed to avoid being locked out this time, but what if I just got lucky? What if next time it happens they ask me for government-issued ID or something similar?
That realization convinced me. I logged on to Messenger, let the few close friends who didn't have my phone number know about my impending account deletion and how to contact me, downloaded Facebook's data on me — 2 GB of it, even though I have no interests, no posts, no photos, and no videos...must be all my messages! — and deleted my account.
Goodbye, Facebook. I was willing to give you a chance, but your hunger for my personal data forced my hand. I only hope that it was soon enough to regain some semblance of privacy in my life. I have a sinking feeling, however, that I gave that up when I signed up for an account in 2009.