Travis Smith: my resume, bio and photos back to the main blog page

I’ve decided to quit Facebook permanently on March 31, and no, this isn’t an April Fool’s joke. #deletefacebook

I thought it was worth explaining what I’m doing, instead of just giving an Irish goodbye, because seems like some other people are pondering doing the same, and also because it seems like some other other people don’t know how awful Facebook is behaving these days, thus I thought I’d share what I know.

I’m going to talk about WHAT I mean by “quitting Facebook,” WHY I’m leaving Facebook, and describe HOW I plan to do so, given my profession and (some would say_) addiction. And then I’m going to sign off.


Most importantly, I’m going to delete my Facebook account entirely, and that means I’ll also be gone from Facebook Messenger. (It turns out you can “deactivate” Facebook but keep using Messenger, if you want to try small steps.)

My company, Hop Studios, is also going to delete its Facebook page. We don’t rely on it to drive business the way some companies do, and for that I’m thankful.

We will reach out and educate all our current clients on why leaving Facebook is a good idea, but we’ll continue to support existing Facebook-powered features on their sites indefinitely, and for now we’ll continue to develop Facebook-dependent features if they’re requested. Hop Studios’ ExpressionEngine add-on, Hop Social Suite, will continue to support Facebook for now as well.

Now, Facebook also owns Instagram, WhatsApp and Oculous VR.  I don’t have an Oculous, so I don’t need to agonize over that decision.

I’m going to keep my Instagram account (owned by Facebook) for now, but I’m going to stop using it to see if deleting it is a viable option.

On the other hand, I am going to keep using WhatsApp. I have too many active chat groups, both personal and professional, to leave that, and I don’t think I have the clout to switch every one of those chats over to another tool. Plus,  WhatsApp is a fantastic cross-platform chat client. I feel that Facebook gets much less data from WhatsApp than it does from the other services, so I don’t feel too bad about this.  However, I am going to watch and see if I can someday make quitting WhatsApp a viable option.


So many, many reasons.

For me, the last straw was a recent news story about Facebook and two-factor authentication. In summary: Two-factor authentication (2FA) is security used to protect an account—if a service offers 2FA and you enable it, then to log in, you have to know your password AND also prove your identity another way, like by receiving a text message on your phone. Hence: two factors.

Facebook encourages you to use two-factor authentication—which is sage, safe advice. However, when you add your cell phone number to your Facebook account for the purpose of two-factor authentication, it has been discovered that they use that number for additional purposes not related to your account’s security.

Specifically, they make it so people can search for your account by entering your cell phone number. Which means if you give anyone your cell phone number, they can now find your facebook account, AND there’s no way to disable this. AND this number is also shared with WhatsApp and Instagram for the purposes of suggesting accounts to follow to you and others.

And lastly/worstly, they allow advertisers to target you by your cell phone number that they collected for 2FA purposes. Is this heinous? No. Is it unexpected and unreasonable? Also no.

Cell phone numbers are very personal, and difficult to change. It’s irresponsible of them to treat them so casually as a broad identifier, and not to ask permission or even give a way to opt out..

Besides, it’s not just about Facebook being scummy and ignoring privacy boundaries directly on their service.  The bigger issue is that because of their careless 2FA implementation, they have discouraged people from using 2FA in general. And 2FA is a good idea; more people using it means less hacks. So by discouraging its use, they are contributing to a less safe Internet.

When you are a massive influencer of people’s online behaviors as Facebook clearly is, you should have the expertise and wisdom on staff not to do things that lead to less overall online safety. It just shows again how Facebook either doesn’t know about, or doesn’t care about, or at its worst actively wants to damage, people’s online privacy and safety.

But as I said, that’s only the last straw. Here’s the rest of the camel’s recent load:

March 2019 - Facebook says it left ‘hundreds of millions’ of user passwords unencrypted: An internal security review found the passwords of hundreds of millions of users had been stored on company servers without encryption, but they said no passwords were leaked and the company has found no indication the sensitive data was improperly accessed.

March 2019 - Teen tracking app: Facebook was using Apple’s enterprise developer program (meant for internal company apps) improperly, to distribute an iPhone app that was presented as a “marketing panel”. The app seemed heavily targeted at children, and it tracks ALL the online usage of people who install it, not just when they were on Facebook. When caught, Facebook said only 5% of the users were teenagers—but it turns out it’s AT LEAST 18%, and possibly higher. It also seems pretty clear that it wasn’t really fully explaining what people were getting into when they used the app. (Apple banned this app when its actual function was revealed.)

March 2019 - Life as a Facebook moderator: This story, about workers subcontracted by Facebook to moderate content, paints a dire picture of the toll that work takes, and on the ways Facebook avoids taking direct responsibility for what should be a core task of the company.

Feb 2019 - Facebook app serving ads based on app you download: A Wall Street Journal reporter wrote about how she downloaded a pregnancy app, and within a day, she started seeing apps on Facebook for maternity clothing. We all have heard stories like this; hers is just particularly well-written (though, to be fair, inconclusive).

Dec 2018 - Inside Facebook’s Secret Rulebook for Global Political Speech: A truly astounding story about Facebook’s complicated process and rules guides for determining what speech (and simple words and logos) is allowed and what isn’t. It describes how Facebook bumps into political morasses and legal requirements in various countries… and how it seems to get it often wrong.

That’s just the past three months, and doesn’t even get to some older, major issues such as:

* Facebook’s Android app was harvesting details of people’s phone calls and text messages for about three years, from 2015-2018.

* Facebook’s role in spreading fake news, including Holocaust deniers and anti-vaccination information, is well-documented. I can think of no other organization that presents such a disconnect between bringing important information to people, and taking so little responsibility for ensuring the accuracy of that information.

* Facebook’s poor data protection allowed dozens of large companies to get access to large swathes of data about millions of people, in ways that could have swayed elections around the world, including the U.S. presidential election and Brexit.

* Facebook is alleged to have negative psychological effects that line up with things I’ve noticed changing in my own life.

Gizmodo’s Facebook stories page is a pretty good list of the problems Facebook’s gotten into… the ratio of bad news to good news or even just neutral is particularly high these days.


It is worth mentioning that Facebook does have some reasons to stick with it.

Yes, it’s easy to share information on Facebook and keep in touch with people.  I would argue that this was a core benefit of Facebook back in the day—and also that there are now other good, easy ways to do so.

Blogging has gotten easier and easier and cheaper and cheaper.  Twitter (yes, yes, flawed) and many other alternatives exist. I plan to use them.

Facebook is used to organize and activate people politically but there are better means with better-behaved companies. Quitting is a privilege and you should do it anyway.

I’ll miss out on some event invitations, and I won’t be able to amplify discussions and share posts I like—but I’ve been a blabbermouth information sharer since well before the internet, so I’m pretty sure I’ll come up with a way to continue doing this.


This part is easy as 1-2-3!

1) Triangle menu -> Settings -> Your Facebook Information -> Delete your Account and Information -> Download Your Information (because a backup is always wise)

2) Hop Studios Page -> Settings -> General -> Remove Page (to get rid of Hop Studios)

3) Triangle menu -> Settings -> Your Facebook Information -> Delete your Account and Information -> Delete Account

I’m doing a few other steps first that most other folks won’t have to do: Posting this blog item, changing my profile photo as part of the exit plan, and messaging current Hop clients about the shift.

And that’s, as they say, all he’ll wrote on Facebook.  So long, and thanks for all the likes.

Epilogue: It’s amazing to me, as I post on this sorely neglected blog, to notice that one of the last things I wrote, two years ago, was a rant against Facebook. I have to ask myself: What took me so long?



Previous entry:
An Open Letter to the CEO of Tumblr

Next entry:
One Week-ish Later


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