Breaking up with Facebook? It’s harder than it looks


Associated Press

NEW YORK

Facebook’s latest privacy scandal, involving Trump campaign consultants who purportedly stole data on tens of millions of users in order to influence elections, has some people reconsidering their relationship status with the social network.

There’s just one problem: There isn’t much of anywhere else to go.

Facebook has weathered many such blow-ups before and is used to apologizing and moving on. But the stakes are bigger this time.

Regulatory authorities are starting to focus on the data misappropriation, triggering a 9 percent decline in Facebook’s normally high-flying stock since Monday. Some of that reflects fear that changes in Facebook’s business will hurt profits or that advertisers and users will sour on the social network.

The furor over Cambridge Analytica, the data mining firm accused of stealing Facebook data, follows a bad year in which Facebook acknowledged helping spread fake news and propaganda from Russian agents. It also comes less than three months after CEO Mark Zuckerberg told the world that he would devote the year to fixing Facebook. Instead, things seem to be getting worse.

“It’s more serious economically, politically, financially and will require a more robust response in order to regain users’ trust,” said Steve Jones, a professor of communications at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Yet leaving Facebook, like ending a long marriage, isn’t remotely simple. Starting with the little things.

Arvind Rajan, a tech executive from San Francisco who deactivated his account Monday, suddenly discovered he needs to create new usernames and passwords for a variety of apps and websites. That’s because he previously logged in with his Facebook ID.

For other users looking to leave, it can feel as if there are no real alternatives. Twitter? Too flighty, too public. Instagram? Whoops, owned by Facebook. Snapchat? Please, unless you’re under 25 – in which case you’re probably not on Facebook to begin with.

Facebook connects 2.2 billion users and a host of communities that have sprung up on its network. No other company can match the breadth or depth of these connections – thanks in part to Facebook’s proclivity for squashing or swallowing up its competition.

But it is precisely in Facebook’s interest to make users feel Facebook is the only place to connect with others.

“My only hesitation is that there are hundreds of pictures posted over 13 years of my life that I do not want to lose access to. If there was a way to recover these photos, I would deactivate immediately,” Daniel Schwartz, who lives in Atlanta, said in an email.

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