Facebook, data collection, and you

Recent reports that London-based, data-analysis firm Cambridge Analytica exploited the data of 50 million Facebook users has engulfed the tech giant in negative press, controversy, and financial setbacks. Facebook’s stock dropped 6.8 percent on Monday (FT), its biggest loss in four years. Users have taken to Twitter to vent their anger using the trending #DeleteFacebook hashtag. Sources such as The Verge have now published guides on how to do just that. 

You can help us report on how Facebook collects data and what it uses it for. We want to explore Facebook’s attitude toward privacy, and steps individuals can take to protect personal data on the platform.

More broadly, we want to understand if deleting Facebook is useful in regard to the protection of data privacy.

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Questions we want to explore

  • How does Facebook collect and use its data?
  • What is Facebook’s attitude toward privacy?
  • Is leaving Facebook the best way to protect your data?
  • What other things can users do to protect their information online?
  • Is keeping personal data entirely private a feasible option?

Important notes

  • The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be implemented in May, fundamentally changing how data is processed all over the world.
  • Facebook is making changes to how it uses data. Responding to GDPR, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg announced the company will roll out a privacy settings hub “that will put the core privacy settings for Facebook in one place and make it much easier for people to manage their data.”
  • After making changes to its news feed, Facebook usage declined in the United States in January (The Verge), and TechCrunch reported Facebook’s slowest quarter ever for daily user growth.
  • In a January post, Zuckerberg wrote: “Our focus in 2018 is making sure Facebook isn’t just fun, but also good for people’s well-being and for society.”
  • Facebook has long faced criticism for the way it handles user privacy – “In some ways, privacy has become impossible on Facebook,” Forbes complained in 2016 – yet problems and protests persist.
  • Considering a radical departure from Facebook as a social media platform? GNU Social may be the most radical departure possible short of meeting people in person.

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