Journalists have already dubbed a new trend as virtual suicide. Almost nine million people from the US and two million from the UK didn’t spare their photos, video clips and other information thoroughly accumulated on their Facebook accounts for many years.
Several days ago the Daily Mail newspaper published the results of a survey carried out by the University of Vienna. It turned out that users used to delete their Facebook accounts before as Austrians conducted their research three years ago. However, even back then, the majority of people in the survey – 43% – admitted they did it because of the concerns about their Internet privacy. The second most frequent reason for deleting a Facebook account was dissatisfaction with the service in general. Among other reasons unwillingness to have meaningless conversations and fear of becoming a social network addict were indicated. Nevertheless, the problem didn’t go away over the last three years, moreover, now it might be even bigger, Stefan Steiger, a professor of the University of Vienna, says.
“It’s just a coincidence that the article in the Daily Mail is published now, when these issues are important because of the NSA scandal. But at the same time, it shows to what extent the problem is pressing. Three years ago, many users left Facebook because of the uprising discontent and now we see the similar thing happening,” he adds.
The motive for the first wave of deleting Facebook accounts was an unclear statement made by the social network’s owner, Mark Zuckerberg, who said that people had an out-of-date image of Internet privacy. Now, thanks to ex-CIA contractor Edward Snowden, social networks users got rather precise information - Big Brother is watching you with the help of complicated programs and a lot of staff. So it’s only natural that people ran away in millions after this.
But not all the countries took spying and a threat to privacy seriously. A survey, carried out by the Voice of Russia website, revealed that only ten percent of Germans deleted their pages on Facebook and 16 percent became more cautious in relation to their personal data. 13 percent of French-speaking people already removed their accounts and 23 percent are going to do this. English-speaking users were definitely more scared by the prospect of being spied on as 57 percent of them got rid of their pages. Interestingly, only four percent of Russian users deleted their accounts on Facebook.
It’s worth mentioning that users leaving Facebook are not likely to act at the spur of the moment or because of the emotions. This decision seems to be rather well-though-out as deleting a page is not that easy, Michael Macy, a sociology professor at Cornell University said in an interview with the Voice of Russia.
“That’s right. It’s entirely plausible and you’re absolutely right that this is maddeningly difficult to delete one’s Facebook account and Facebook tries very hard to keep you from deleting it. They ask you: “Why don’t you just make it inactive, just deactivate your account, and don’t delete it?” And they say: “If you delete your account you’re going to lose your content and photographs.” They are really actively trying to discourage people from deleting. So if somebody deletes their account, they’re definitely sending a message. And I think that this is probably the message – that people are concerned about their privacy,” Macy comments.
But will the mass deleting of Facebook accounts continue? And where could it lead to? Jim Killock, Chief Executive of the Open Rights Group, UK-based organization that works to preserve digital rights and freedoms, answers this question to the Voice of Russia.
“This means that these businesses are going to be adversely affected. It means that Facebook will only use revenue. And that is a good thing in these circumstances because it means the companies have to rethink their relationship with the American secret services. And they have to speak more loudly against the laws that align them to be forced to surveil their customers. The problem is, we know, results in the government just saying: “Well, who knows, nobody knows that this is really going on, so we don’t care what you’re saying.” So I think that public pressure in this kind of way is a very, very good thing because it hits companies where it hurts – in the wallets,” Killock explains.
But there is the other side to the coin. The behavioral culture of Internet users leaves much to be desired. And one can be sure that their privacy is protected only by keeping good “hygiene” surfing the Internet, Gabriel Carriglio, a prominent Mexican political scientist, assures.
“I use Facebook the way nobody can learn some extra information about me. The best and, it seems to be the only method to do it, is to avoid posting confidential information about yourself on social networks. I don’t leave there my phone number, personal photos or credit card numbers. Facebook for me is, first of all, a means of mass media from which I learn the latest world news and not storage for personal data. In my view, many people don’t understand the importance of keeping good hygiene while using the Internet,” Carriglio says.
When the spying scandal broke out, Facebook, Google and Yahoo proposed to introduce new rules of openness which will enable users to check what information and in what amounts is being collected by secret services. Experts think that transparency might help in some way. But the main step should be taken by the governments which should put legal limits on spying on people without the permission of the court. Until it’s done social networks will be losing users and money along with them.
The Voice of Russia has initiated an international internet discussion concerning the private space on the Web and Internet surveillance in the light of Edward Snowden revelations. Below are several opinions of the Internet users on the heated privacy debate.
Winston Patter (Germany): Internet is an open space, so we need to simply accept the fact of interference into private lives. Online protection is nominal. Personally, I don’t feel threatened, we just have to deal with this issue with common sense. By the way, old East Germans are hard to surprise by wiretapping. There are always people who are interested in the life of others.
Bernard Roger Chenal (France): At any rate, Facebook contains a lot of false information, even wrong birth dates. And it makes me wonder why people publish so much personal stuff about themselves. One French spy has recently explained why Facebook and Copains d'avant are spy’s best friends. In Facebook or on Twitter you express your views and tastes. Thanks to the social networks, one can form an opinion about anyone’s personality.
Bidias Avomo Sonfack (born in Cameroon): I have always thought that personal life and modern security demands are incompatible. How would an NSA agent benefit from my flirting with a girl on the Internet? Those who do not commit crimes have nothing to worry about, but if tracking our talks would prevent a crime or facilitate a police investigation, I would support the NSA with all my heart.
Luis Ibarra (Uruguay): I am not very concerned by surveillance. But I can’t say I would be excited by that fact, either. They understand there are millions of us, and that we can no longer hide our dislike of this system. I even tried to go to the FBI’s webpage to express my indignation.
Jorge Paris (Spain): Espionage has existed forever. But spying on ordinary people is the evidence of the fear these so-called influential countries feel right now.
Junior Vallecilla Micolta (Chile): It is disrespect of the social networks users, because they have their right for confidentiality. I don’t mind other forms of espionage but this one is wrong.
Maria Lopez (Mexico): No trust. I have nothing to hide! If those people in the US like what I post, they should “like” it.
Rosa A. Lopez (Venezuela): Politicians and major entrepreneurs are the ones to worry about surveillance. Or people who do stuff which can harm others. All others are only watched by either psychos or lovers.
Veronica Souza Franca(USA): my son did that...i still keep mine because i help my president Dilma Rousseff fighting for her in the on facebook...i feel safe because my president is fighying for my freedom of expression even against Obama...i feel safe and proud of my president.
Rahul Chellani(USA): No. But I deleted all the pages I had liked which were related to any kind of extremism and also communism! Last year our Indian govt convicted a social worker doctor of sedation, who has received numerous international peace awards, he was suspected of having links to Maoists of India. The outrageous thing is that they have NO proof on him of any kind, except for the fact that when his home and office were searched, they found a copy of the book "Das Kapital"... !! That was their proof of being a Maoist. Google "Binayak Sen"
Jason Nelsen(USA): Just because somebody deletes their Facebook doesn't mean the NSA and other government agencies still can't spy on ya through other Internet sites and systems. I do not fear my government because we still have a right to free speech and damn it I'm going to continue to use it no matter where I go, can't arrest me for speaking my mind. However on the subject on addiction - that could be true as social media is just like tv or video games, its hard to break away from these kinds of things.
Starship Trooper(USA): Where did you get that information. If that was true,the stock rating would have gone down. Small note accounts on FB are fictional names . Wjy would they bother, Every think you put on your account page, is open to the public. Only a fool would put things on facebook that they didnt want any one to see. Large amount of accounts are by businesses that want to be seen. This NSA things is so lame. USSR, oh I mean Russia spies all the time. Every one else does to . Least the NSA doesnt do what other countries do with none secutity related information, like buisiness secret. They pass it a long to the private sector.
Ricia J Mitchell (USA): I wouldn't for several reasons. 1: i would also have to delete my gmail, stop using google, bing, yahoo and pretty much any other search engine and 2: i don't see the point in stopping my internet life now, if they have been watching for as long as Snowden says, they have enough on me that stopping now would be redundant 3: i am not afraid of the NSA, Obama and his thugs, DHS, FBI, CIA or any other alphabet soup agency.Of course not. I already assumes we were monitoring telecommunications for terrorists and criminals. The age of absolute privacy is over, if it ever really existed.
Tyler Rae Israel(USA): True story - you delete facebook - they hack your webcam - LOL - you trash your computer - televisions and fridges are now being made with camera's in them, LOL
Sylvia Bourdon(USA): addiction is a good reason to delete. I did several times and came back ... Next time will be the right one!