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Prepare divorce papers: the time has come to leave all things Facebook

CoNet Administrator

It's pretty much an established truth that Mark Zuckerberg and his senior team cannot be trusted but their latest wheeze is of such monumental importance to everyone that's it's time every one left each and every one of various parts of the Facebook empire. Some parts will be more difficult than others, some things will involve value judgements as to the lesser evil but, at the end of the day, one keeps coming back to the fact that Facebook cannot be trusted and it's about to get worse. Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp are to become a unified surveillance and reporting tool and every user is the target.

It is now clear that Facebook has been developing technology to snoop on users of WhatsApp, despite all the assurances that were given when the messaging app was taken over by the leviathan that Facebook had already become. That was not the only thing: the previously eschewed "stickers," rejected by the original developers and steadfastly refused by them, have appeared along with "status" that is akin to a Facebook feed. Advertising has been announced, despite the promises made that WhatsApp would remain ad free - and (in seeming conflict with its statements on access to messaging content), those ads will be targeted.

Now, Facebook says that it intends to closely integrate WhatsApp and its "Messenger" and Instagram data.

This will give Facebook an extraordinary insight into the lives and minute by minute activities of users.

Let's just think about that for a moment.

Your private love life or your business activities are conducted via WhatsApp. Facebook knows what you did last night, what you bought or sold and the price, it even knows the delivery date. Instagram knows what you did last night and what you are doing at this moment. It knows who you are doing it with because you tell it. Messenger is just a leaky tool for direct messages within Facebook which, in so many cases, is where you live.

This integration means that you will no longer be able to keep different parts of your life separate, you will not be able to maintain what are known as "data silos." Facebook, at a corporate level will know if you are cheating on your spouse, two-timing your girlfriend or boyfriend or if you have told your best mate how you cheated at cards. It will know if you drove home drunk last night even though, in another silo, you are an advocate for stronger penalties for drink-driving. It will know if you told your bestie that you bought a baggie on a street corner because your back aches and you don't want to risk addiction to opioids.

Facebook already knows all this stuff. But it does not, at least theoretically, join it all up. It has fragmented images of your life, not a high-definition movie.

We already know that Facebook has zero moral compass: even when it is caught out, its response is, basically, "We are Facebook. We do what we want." The scandal in which it has been leaned that Facebook has knowingly or recklessly been making on-line sales to children, and then denying parents their right of recovery, is another example of how the company sticks a finger up to law and regulation.

The question now is just how much of your life do you want this company having access to, analysing, selling? What level of intrusion are you comfortable with?

But if you leave, where do you go? Google is no better: Android is, itself, an intrusive surveillance tool and it facilitates others developing the same. Its Maps app says it won't work without access to the telephone. As Google closes Google Plus, there is at least less integration between mobile life and social media. But Android and Apple's iOS aren't going anywhere soon and increasingly businesses are requiring that you give Google and Apple sensitive information as a condition of doing business with them. For example, you might not want Google knowing any financial information, even knowing who you bank with but some banks are now insisting that for some transactions, customers must install an App. The proliferation of wallets and on-line services such as Uber tell the owners of that operating system who you do business with, even if they don't find out what that business is. And if you use Waze or Google Maps for directions, Google (which owns both) knows where you've been, where you are and where you are going. Again, the integration of that data with other information provides extraordinary insight into your life.

And for business users, extraordinary insight into your commercial affairs.

WeChat: the Chinese government watches that. Wire - it's flaky. All alternatives have something less than perfect about them. But at least, if one separates services that information is unlikely to be joined up which gives a degree of protection. Or, just an idea, actually meet people and chat over coffee and dump on-line comms altogether.

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