Yesterday I went online to look for a holiday rental. In some place. Some week in the future. That’s about as much information as anyone needs to know about my activities.
But Facebook? Oh, no. They need to know much more than that.
Despite the fact that I wasn’t within an ass’s roar of Facebook when looking for what I wanted online – in fact, on the 2 computers I used to do the search, I wasn’t even logged in to Facebook at the time – it seems that Facebook felt that they had a right to know all about my holiday plans, right down to the exact house I was looking at. I know this because they asked me in an ad, this morning, if I still wanted it.
It’s only when you see something as blatant as this, that you realise just how much snooping Facebook does into your life.
Facebook has become a dog who’s sniffing your bottom. You wish they’d stop, but you’re paralysed: cringing, your tail between your legs, hoping it’ll be all over soon so you can just go and play.
But once your bottom’s been sniffed, there’s no going back.
Have a think about this. Are you aware that Facebook is watching pretty much everything you do online?
Are you aware, for instance, that they have gone into your phones and computers, and taken note of each and all of the following:
- Your internet browsing history;
- Every app you have on your phone;
- The identity of every single person you’ve ever spoken to or been grouped together with on WhatsApp, and what you’ve said to them;
- Your phone and email contacts;
- and more obviously, everything you’ve ever liked, shared, commented on, or clicked through to read more of on Facebook?
And all of this happened, despite the fact that I’m a paranoid doomsday merchant who is fanatical about constantly checking her privacy settings, in a vain attempt to actually retain some privacy.
Whatcha Doin’ There?
Facebook is your annoying soon-to-be-ex, who wants to know what you’re doing, who you’re with, and where you’re going. All. The. Time.
Except it’s not the same. It’s not a pathetically desperate, clingy romance gone wrong. This is a very, very large company, snooping into your very small life.
Picture the scene. It’s late. The room is eerily quiet. It’s just you, your computery device, and an impending sense of doom.
Facebook: Whatcha readin’?
You: Oh, nothing important.
Facebook: Seriously. What are you reading?
You: You don’t want to know, believe me.
Facebook: If it matters to you, it matters to me. Just tell me.
You: An article about discoloured toenails. Wait. Did I just say that out loud?
Facebook: Ugh. Gross. But here, look. There’s a lotion you can get for that. It’s called PearlyToe ™. Available with just one click.
You: Why are you handing me a brochure? Did you know about this before?
Facebook: No, of course not. But here’s another leaflet on halitosis, and a 20% discount for laser hair removal. Oh, and do you know John Johnnyton? How about you say hi to him?
You: Who the hell is John Johnnyton?
Facebook: You texted him once about getting a quote for putting shelves into your bathroom, remember?
You: No, I don’t bloody remember! How do you remember?
Facebook: I remember everything, Sweetie. Every. Thing. Look of this photo of you from 7 years ago. Weren’t you better-looking then? Happier? Click here, and there’ll be no more waking up screaming, I promise.
Future Present, Everyone Will Have a Stalker For Fifteen Minutes Years
Because I blog under my real name, I go out of my way to try and maintain as much online privacy as I can otherwise. I need a presence on social media to promote writing stuff, but I thought there were things I could do, to keep the intrusion to a minimum.
I don’t talk online about my personal, non-writing life. I keep no contact lists in any of my email accounts. I refuse every social media request to have a peek into contact lists elsewhere. I removed the Messenger app from my phone. I maintain separate e-mail accounts for social media sign-ups.
And yet Facebook still managed to form a complete profile of who I am, what I’m interested in, and who I talk to. Half of it is complete horseshit. But the other half is so intrusive, it’s downright scary.
For instance: I could go on ad nauseum about all the routes I take to keep my day job separate from my online presence. Suffice to say, I maintain no online contact whatsoever with work colleagues, and never refer to them, or my employer, online.
So can someone then please explain to me how, despite having no mutual social media friends at all, and no email contact outside of internal office systems – where I have no access to Facebook – one of my work colleagues was suggested to me, by Facebook, as someone I knew?
I whittled it down, and realised that in order to make the suggestion, Facebook had to be scanning my phone, where the only online connection I have with this person is firstly, text messages about running late; and second, the fact that we were both once added to the same WhatsApp group, announcing the birth of another colleague’s baby.
You’d Think That’d Be Enough, But No
Highly perturbed by all this, I went in to check my so-called advertising preferences in Facebook (all of which had been kindly picked out for me by the Face****ers), and lo and behold, it appears that I was interested in seeing ads about at least two things which could only have been associated with me if someone was scanning either the apps on my phone, or my personal e-mails.
I can’t even begin to tell you how cheesed off I am. No matter what precautions I take, Facebook hunt me down. I feel like posting dog poo to their offices. Every day for a month.
But what can I do? Is the only solution to kill my Facebook account, even though I’d rather keep it for the blog if only it behaved itself? Should I tick every single advertising preference category to make their algorithms worthless, or will that only give them sales ammunition? Should I untick everything instead?
And most importantly. Do I really need Facebook, if it means they can violate my basic human right to look up holidays or bodily functions in peace?
If you know, do tell. In the meantime, forget your face. Watch your back.