This past Saturday, as it was coming to light that Cambridge Analytica had used Facebook data from 50 million+ people to help put Donald Trump in the White House, I taught a class called “Internet Self-Defense.”

I told my students — all three of them — that over the past decade most of us have slowly traded our privacy for convenience. I had them use Spokeo to see how easy it would be for an employer or ex-boyfriend to gather vital information about them. I had them use Have I Been Pwned to learn how many of the websites they use have been hacked. Companies have been gathering information about us, selling that information, sharing it with each other, pooling it. And Facebook is the king of such companies.

Every time Facebook gets into trouble, Mark Zuckerberg issues a carefully worded apology and promises greater transparency. This time he went so far as to say: “We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you.”

Zuckerberg is too smart to believe what he’s saying. Facebook doesn’t serve its users — it serves advertisers, to whom Zuck sells user data. That is the entire business model of Facebook. To pretend otherwise is disingenuous in the extreme. He’s basically Frank Purdue in the henhouse, telling future roasters: “If I don’t protect your health, I don’t deserve to feed you.”

Alas, most of the internet runs on the same business model. Google probably knows more about us than Facebook does. But I don’t see Steve Bannon partnering with Google to influence elections, and Google actually provides useful products and services in exchange for our data. Facebook serves up an ugly website with terrible interfaces, and the more you’re on it, the more depressed you’re likely to get. Such a deal!

Years ago, I worked for a library that promised to protect the privacy of its patrons…while simultaneously offering classes that helped people sign up for Facebook. It made me queasy. The library’s stance made about as much sense as Zuckerberg’s. I hope libraries start teaching classes on how to ditch Facebook. After all, it is (gasp) possible to send pictures and messages and links to your friends without Facebook! Let’s put in on the ash heap next to AOL Messenger, pets.com, and Richard Nixon.


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