This past weekend, we learned that 50 million Facebook users had their personal information harvested by political firm Cambridge Analytica, which sought to use that data to influence voter choices in the U.S. presidential election, according to reports in The New York Times and The Observer.
The scandal has prompted outrage from U.S. and U.K. lawmakers demanding to know how Facebook could do this without the informed consent of its users. Facebook refutes this characterization of being a villain that knowingly misled users. Yes, it did suspend Cambridge Analytica’s account, but no, it did not illegally violate users’ consent.
Paul Grewal, a vice president and deputy general counsel at Facebook, wrote that Facebook users “knowingly provided their information, no systems were infiltrated, and no passwords or sensitive pieces of information were stolen or hacked.”
On Wednesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg finally acknowledged that what happened was “a breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us and expect us to protect it. We need to fix that.”
Facebook users are still unconvinced. After the revelation, many have joined a #DeleteFacebook campaign to opt out of Facebook for good.
As you contemplate whether or not you should delete Facebook too, let us weigh the networking pros and cons you gain and lose as a working professional:
Pro: It’s a push for accountability
If you do not want your personal user information to be used by third parties like Cambridge Analytica in the future, deleting your account does indeed stop third-party apps from gaining access to that data. It’s a lengthy process, but when you are done, Facebook will lose information it has gathered on your habits.
And if your trust in Facebook is broken beyond repair, it makes your displeasure with the social media giant publicly known as a way to signal that its actions are unacceptable. Your boycott is a personal way to signal your ethics around privacy.
Con: Networking opportunities with future employers
Facebook has over 1.8 billion people worldwide on its service, per its last quarterly report. One of those people could be the networking contact you need for a future job.
I can personally admit to the power of Facebook’s career networking abilities. I would not have this job without it. I only heard about my role through a Facebook Group for women journalists seeking jobs.
Pro: There are other networking options
But if Facebook’s business model makes you uncomfortable, there are many other online networking tools that can fill in the Facebook gap and help you find jobs and career opportunities.
Facebook may have some cool opportunities for social connection, but it is not necessary for you to get a job.
Con: Deleting Facebook does not mean you are free of Facebook
If you are deleting Facebook to extricate yourself from its influence on your personal and professional life, recognize that it is still collecting data on you through others.
As Techno-sociologist Zeynep Tufekci notes, “Facebook even creates ‘shadow profiles’ of nonusers. That is, even if you are not on Facebook, the company may well have compiled a profile of you, inferred from data provided by your friends or from other data. This is an involuntary dossier from which you cannot opt out in the United States.”
Pro: You may end up happier
Using Facebook may be depressing us. Deleting your account limits its influence on your mood. One psychology experiment required young adults required to give up Facebook for their job, and those young adults ended up happier than the others who got to keep their accounts. Turns out, using social media makes us unhappily more aware of what we do not have. The study concluded that “Facebook usage increases users’ engagement in social comparison and consequently decreases their happiness.”
Ultimately though, your mileage on Facebook may vary. How badly do you need to see that baby photo? How much do you need that networking group to support your career? These are professional and personal choices each of us must weigh.