Facebook scandal scores a mixed response from students

Monash University student Alon Hammerschmidt has joined the #DeleteFacebook movement. Photo: Andrea Thiis-Evensen

By ANDREA THIIS-EVENSEN

An online movement known as #DeleteFacebook has inspired some Monash University students to follow a long list of public figures and delete their Facebook accounts.

But many others say that while they are angry about the data breach, they won’t be deleting their accounts. 

The trend away from the platform gained popularity after it was revealed data analysis company Cambridge Analytica secured access to 87 million Facebook users’ data.

Monash student Alon Hammerschmidt said he began removing content from his page a month ago because he wants to “minimise the data points” that mark him throughout Facebook, in order to completely remove himself from the platform before he deletes his account.

“I didn’t want to play into a company that I think is doing wrong by me,” Mr Hammerschmidt said.

“They’ve got such advanced data tracking that they know everything about you, your interests, your friends, more about you than maybe you know yourself.”

Students polled by Mojo were largely content to remain on Facebook. 

Mr Hammerschmidt recommended others move away from the site, and said Facebook could control people’s lives.

“[Notifications] release dopamine every time you hear them … it is an addictive controlling substance,” he said.

“With that, they control you, if it were anything else, it would be regulated, but because its technology, it’s not.”

Companies such as Tesla, and public figures including WhatsApp founder Brian Acton and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, quit the platform after the data hacking scandal unfolded.

Last week Cambridge Analytica announced it would be shutting down following the allegations about its misuse of Facebook’s data.

Monash University sociology senior lecturer Dr Brady Robards, who researches the use of Facebook, said the #DeleteFacebook movement could have a real impact on society.

“Movements like this can make people think about diversity in a social media landscape, so in that way, it can have an impact,” he said.

Monash University Senior Lecturer in Sociology Dr Brady Robards. Picture: Twitter

Dr Robards said Facebook’s main issue was that users were unaware of how much personal information the popular site stored.

“Although people can download the information they have on us, it’s not always clear how they network that data with other databases,” he said.

“I think it’s great that the movement has created a bigger conversation about trust, and how social media platforms should be more responsible for the effect they are having on our society, democracy and everyday lives.”

Despite the popularity of #DeleteFacebook, the company recently announced a strong start to 2018 with a 50 per cent increase in revenue compared to the same time last year.

Google searches for “Delete Facebook” spiked in late March directly after the Cambridge Analytica Scandal, but have decreased steadily since.

Despite the slowdown, Dr Robards said individuals deleting Facebook would still hurt the platform as a business.

“Any bad publicity may work to further erode people’s trust in Facebook, and this might lead to people engaging in different ways than just deleting their accounts since they are worried about their data, trust and privacy,” Dr Robards said.

“In some ways, the movement still has an impact, but whether or not it will change the landscape long term remains to be seen.”