A Message for Facebook Users: Do You Want Real Online Privacy?

Let’s “face” it: Facebook is a huge success despite all its privacy-invasive business practices. The company became a multi-billion dollar success story by exploiting the personal data of two billion people. If you are a Facebook user, your approximate income, your religious preferences, political leanings, ethnic origins, how many children you have, and even sexual preferences probably are available to anyone who wishes to pay for that information. Yes, even representatives of various governments around the world can purchase your personal information, as can credit reporting agencies, private detective agencies, the Republicans, the Democrats, the American Nazi Party, or any other political group. Many people, including myself, think there’s something wrong with that.

I have read many online articles, newsgroups, newspapers, and magazines with articles suggesting the governments of the world should stop Facebook from collecting and selling the personal data of all its members. I suspect that effort will go nowhere. First of all, defining “personal data” is a fuzzy challenge. Just what should be legal to collect and sell versus what should be illegal? Any potential laws would need to define what constitutes “personal data,” and that alone seems like Herculean challenge.

Next, the multi-billionaire CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, has an army of lawyers and highly-paid lobbyists whose sole job is to make sure that Facebook can continue to conduct its business in any manner that Zuckerberg wishes forever. After all, Zuckerberg is the one who stated in public: “privacy is a social norm of the past.” Now that he is a multi-billionaire, you know he wants to protect the business he has created. If any legislation concerning collecting and selling personal information ever appears in the U.S. Congress or elsewhere, Zuckerberg and his minions will soon make it disappear. Yes, lawyers and highly-paid lobbyists have long proven they do have that much influence.

I will suggest there is a better solution, and it is very simple: take our business elsewhere.

Best of all, no lawyers, lobbyists, or power-seeking legislators are needed. All this plan requires is a very simple grass roots effort by computer users worldwide who are concerned about their privacy. If enough people agree with the idea and switch to social media services that are dedicated to the protection of everyone’s personal information, the computer users can easily defeat all the power brokers.

Nothing speaks as loudly to a profitable business as declining revenue.

An article by Hiawatha Bray in the Boston Globe caught my eye. Bray describes two social network services that compete against Facebook, and yet their members can feel safe from spying by the service and respected as human beings, not as merchandise that can be sold for a profit.

The two services described are MeWe and Idka. The two services are almost unknown by the general public. That’s not surprising considering how Facebook dominates social media. I decided to look into the alternatives described in the article.

Of the two, I soon found that I liked MeWe more than I cared for Idka. Your impressions might be the opposite. I’d suggest you read Hiawatha Bray’s article at: http://alturl.com/xp5og and then check out both MeWe at https://mewe.com and Idka at https://www.idka.com/en/. Make up your own mind.

The MeWe home page has several statements that made me feel good about the company:

No Ads. No Spyware. No BS.

FREE Forever.

We do not spy, track, or share your data. Your personal information and content is yours – not ours.

Share anything and everything: photos, videos, voice messages, disappearing content, mail, chat and more. Capture your entire world or just a moment in time.

Our unique permission controls let you decide who sees your content. No creepy stalkers or strangers.

Our breakthrough technology allows you to stay connected to your world through 1:1 communication or in private groups. Save and manage your content in your personal cloud storage, too.

The best chat & texting app, with privacy you trust.

Yes, that strikes me as close to being an ideal social media service: YOU control your information, YOU decide who sees your content, and YOUR personal information and content belongs to YOU, not to the corporation and not to those who purchase private information about you from Facebook.

The Idka social network service has similar statements, although obviously the wording is a bit different.

Both MeWe and Idka can be safely and securely accessed by using a web browser as well as by Android or Apple iOS (iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch) apps.

One feature on MeWe I really like is the MeWe Challenge: a method of finding how many tracking cookies are stored in your web browser by Facebook and other privacy-invasive services. Keep in mind that I rarely use Facebook, and yet the MeWe Challenge reported that I have 35 tracking cookies in my web browser from Facebook alone! I also have a few more from Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.

I will suggest you should take the FREE MeWe Challenge at https://mewe.com/challenge. You may be surprised at all the tracking cookies in your web browser.

Also, after signing up for a free account, read the recent messages at https://mewe.com/group/55f9dd29e4b050c69e693558.

Drawbacks

There is one major problem with both MeWe and Idka: a lack of users. Both of these services are tiny when compared to Facebook. MeWe had about about 1 million users as of last April while Idka had about 4,000 users in April. Those are tiny drops in a bucket when compared to Facebook’s 2.19 billion users.

Chances are that your friends and relatives are not yet using either of these services. As a result, you probably will find these services to be rather lonely places. Of course, there is a solution, but it will take a while: try one or both of these services yourself and, if one of them appeals to you, make strong recommendations to all your friends and relatives to check them out also.

Summation

Which do you prefer: corporations spying on you and selling your information to the highest bidder or keeping control of your own personal information and content?

The choice is yours to make.


P.S. Please feel free to copy-and-paste this article to any other online service, newsletter, or web page that you think is appropriate. Or send it in email to anyone you believe might be interested. There is no need to ask for permission. Just do it.

6 thoughts on “A Message for Facebook Users: Do You Want Real Online Privacy?

  1. Thank you. I’ve been thinking about dumping my Facebook account and want something to replace it where family and friends can keep in touch without all the trash and drama. I will definitely recommend both these sites, I suspect I will end up with MeWe as it seems more what I’m after and it looks like Idka is a more European focused site. The Boston Globe article required a sign up/log in and I didn’t bother after that. I use anonymous browsing and they don’t like that – as far as I’m concerned, they lose, keep me out and for as often as I’d visit I lose nothing. Again, thanks for the recommendations.

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  2. This sounds great, but I have a question. How do they make enough money to pay for servers, programmers, electricity, and Internet access? They almost have to be selling something to someone.

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    • —> How do they make enough money to pay for servers, programmers, electricity, and Internet access?

      MeWe received more than $4.8 million (US) in venture capital funding so far. Details are available at: http://www.finsmes.com/2016/03/mewe-raises-3m-in-funding.html

      Obviously, the venture capitalists who made the investments want a return on their money someday. In fact, Crunchbase says: “The revenue model is “freemium” with a suite of great free standard features plus “in-app” revenue-generating sales of special features and services that are truly helpful to members and a modest fee for “Pages” along with a Premium membership option.”

      Also, from a press release issued by MeWe:

      “In a departure from traditional “consumer-only” social media companies like SNAP and Twitter, MeWe has a sister division, MeWePRO (https://mewepro.com) for business customers. Separately available on iOS, Android, and desktop, MeWePRO directly competes with SLACK, offering an exceptional suite of fully integrated collaboration tools and security while eliminating the bottlenecks and performance impediments of internal email. MeWePRO supercharges communication and collaboration between employees inside any organization or project, and costs less than $75 per year per employee. MeWePRO is free for non-profits and educational organizations.”

      Finally, MeWe (the consumer business, not the Pro version) either has or will soon have several upgrade options for users who wish to use them, including “extra storage (8GB is free, and 50GB is $4.99 per month), Secret Chat (like WhatsApp only without tracking) for $.99 cents per month, Custom Emojis at $.99 cents a packet, plus MeWe Pages (coming soon) at $1.99 per month, and special games exclusive to MeWe members.”

      Again, all the paid upgrades are optional. The standard (free) version is quite powerful on its own and does protect every user’s privacy. The paid upgrades will add more storage space and more options for those who wish for more. However, I suspect the MeWe managers are planning on the Pro version being the primary money-maker.

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