Don’t delete Facebook – tame it

Any free service that exists solely on advertising and which has extensive user profiles is selling your data and undermines democracy and human rights. e.g. Facebook, Google. Apple and Microsoft make most of their revenue from sales of hardware and software so are probably not as dangerous. However the general trend of centralisation of data about people and control by large for-profit corporations has inherent problems – corporations act like corporations, which is to say they act like sociopathic machines for making small numbers of people rich regardless of damage to our society or environment.

If you can delete your Facebook account and not miss it, go ahead. However many people would prefer not to because doing so would make it impossible to continue using various services that they registered for by using their Facebook account, sell products through the Facebook marketplace, participate in groups that don’t have a presence on other platforms, stay in touch with friends and family and so on.

Rather than urge people to quit Facebook immediately, the focus of this guide is one of harm minimisation – how to continue using Facebook in a safer way. We want to remove the psychological tricks Facebook uses to keep you addicted and limit the data that it can gather about you and your friends.

Steps to take:

Install Firefox on your desktop and phone with these extensions

  • Facebook Container – this will stop Facebook from tracking which web sites you visit
  • FB Purity https://www.fbpurity.com/ – removes a lot of clutter and trickery
  • Ghostery – blocks a lot of tracking systems
  • uBlock Origin – blocks advertising
  • B.S detector http://bsdetector.tech/ – warns about fake news web sites
  • News feed eradicator (or just unfollow everyone). – replaces the entire news feed with a quote. To see updates from someone, go to your profile, then ‘friends’, then ‘new posts’. This means that catching up with someone’s life becomes an active choice rather than a passive scroll.

If the Firefox for Android browser isn’t working out (some people report crashes and slowness) then there are plenty of others. I’ve been using Samsung Internet Browser for a while and I appreciate it’s easy and effective ad and tracking blocker.

To access all your calls, contacts and sms, Facebook needs their apps on your phone. So disable or delete them. This includes their main Facebook app, but also others such as Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. Once you’ve done this the only way to use Facebook on your phone will be to go to m.facebook.com in the browser. Use the browser’s “Add to home screen” function to add an app-like icon to launch the Facebook site more easily.

Install Signal and/or Telegram for messaging. If that is too much of a big change, try Skype (owned by Microsoft, so relatively safe) instead. When you want to communicate with someone on Facebook, go to https://www.messenger.com in your desktop browser and chat with them that way.

Rather than getting news by scrolling the Facebook news food, get your news by using RSS (more). There are a variety of cloud based RSS reading services that you can access through a browser or sync your reading across devices but using them requires you to trust that they won’t be evil so it’s best to avoid the browser based or cloud synced readers.

Things to bear in mind in the future

Every time you sign up to a new web site using the ‘Log in with Facebook’ you’re making it harder to quit Facebook in the future. Unless you are in a terrible hurry for some reason, use the slower and more manual registration process instead.

Every single act you do on Facebook, whether you post a status update, a photo, share a piece of news, like something, comment simply fuels the beast. Not only does Facebook know more about you and your friends but your friends will have more reason to use Facebook. You are contributing to what makes Facebook interesting and valuable to others and in doing so you are making them miserable (not to mention eroding our democracy, etc).

If you care about your friends and family, don’t like or comment on their posts because each time their phone pings from a notification they get a little dopamine hit that keeps them addicted.

If you were using Chrome before switching to Firefox then Chrome will have saved many of your web site account details and Firefox might not import those properly. Go to passwords.google.com to view a list of all the logins Chrome saved.

Bonus: taming Google

Set your default search engine to duckduckgo on all your devices.

Your Android phone may have Chrome as the default web browser. Chrome will be sending all your web site usage to Google so you might prefer to use Firefox for Android or another browser instead. Set Firefox as your default browser.

Turn off all location and history tracking in the Google Maps and Google Now apps. These apps continually send your location to Google which is obviously unnecessary and unsafe. Consider using a different app for maps, such as Maps.me or go to http://openstreetmap.org/ in your mobile browser.

Most people have a Gmail account, which Google mines for information. You can continue to use it when you want an inbox to collect the avalanche of spam that results from registering at any web site but for personal and work communication you are better off using another service. If you have a personal web site then the same company that hosts your web site can usually provide an email inbox for you to use at no additional cost. Getting this set up is a bit too technical for most people so if you want something very quick and easy then try something from this list.

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