Today, we said “goodbye” to Instagram. While we’ve enjoyed (virtually) meeting great people in many countries, we struggled with a fundamental conflict that we cannot, personally, satisfactorily resolve: how to be part of social media without sacrificing the privacy of our personal information to the whims of a company that answers to one master – its shareholders.
Facebook, Inc. is a business (as are the other entities it’s assimilated, including Instagram), and its provision of this platform isn’t driven by altruism: despite the appearance that it’s free, there is a cost to using Instagram. That cost to users is allowing Facebook, Inc. to use users’ personal information for a number of purposes, including those that fall under “research”. That may sound relatively innocuous, but it’s not: for example, how would you feel about not having access to certain features that you know other users do? Without knowing why? On its face, it sounds discriminatory…and practically speaking, it’s just annoying.
We encountered this exact situation during our very brief foray into the Facebook world: we each created accounts and I discovered that I was unable to see the Marketplace, one of the primary reasons we created a Facebook account – but Patrick could access it on his account. As a rule, we take exception to being participants in “social experiments” without first providing our express, informed consent. We quickly realized how little value Facebook brought to us, so we closed our accounts and never looked back. Sadly, we’ve recently noticed more and more Facebook-like activity occurring on Instagram.
We hope that all Instagram users will read the updated Terms and Data Policy that was pushed out at roughly midnight Eastern time last night and understand what it means – how it permits Facebook, Inc. to use your information, and how it affects your rights (like the Arbitration provision). If you’re in the U.S. – like us – read it very carefully, as we are afforded fewer protections than our EU friends. We’ve read it and have decided that it’s just not worth it, and have exercised the option to simply delete our account. (And if you decide you want to try to delete your photos before you close your account, Instagram will play games to try to thwart you…after a certain number of deletes, it simply stopped deleting the photos and displayed the message to “try again later” – doubtless, hoping you’ll just give up in frustration!)
Ever heard of Facebook Pixel? You can find more information about this “invisible code that’s dropped onto the other websites that allows that site and Facebook to track users’ activity” in the New York Times article here: Facebook Privacy Hearings. You’ll probably be, at the very least, perturbed.
Maybe social media’s scope creep regarding users’ personal information bothers us more than the average social media user because of our frames of reference; what we consider to be unduly invasive and manipulative may seem acceptable to others. We sincerely hope not.
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