By Robert Hackett
March 24, 2018

Happy weekend, Cyber Saturday readers.

I spent the evening with a friend who is far bolder than me. Having deactivated his Facebook profile three years ago, he upped the ante this week by deleting his Instagram account. Even more drastically, he plans officially to delete his long-dormant Facebook account—the last vestige of his serfhood in Mr. Zuckerberg’s fiefdom—sometime very soon, after his girlfriend has had an opportunity to port its photos elsewhere. (He prefers offline storage.)

I asked him to explain the decision. “Privacy, I guess, is the short answer,” he said. “I don’t want to put any more stuff on the internet. I know I put some dumb [expletive deleted] on it in the past and what’s done is done but going forward I don’t want to be a part of it.”

“It was something I was kicking around for probably close to a year,” he continued. “But all the news it’s gotten recently has lit a fire under me.”

It’s hard not to feel similarly. Recent revelations around the improper acquisition of millions of Facebook users’ data for the purposes of political suasion do not inspire much confidence in the social network’s ability to protect people’s personal information. Nor does it help that Facebook’s business model is predicated on selling its users out to advertisers, the company’s true customers, as endless editorials have reminded us this week. Why don’t we all make like my digitally ascetic friend—or Elon Musk, or WhatsApp cofounder Brian Acton, for that matter—and walk out?

For many of us the choice isn’t so simple. Businesses, big and small, depend on the reach of these platforms to hawk their wares. People across a swath of foreign countries rely on Facebook’s Free Basics program for internet access. Plenty of us are content simply to keep the door open for friends and family (and hundreds of otherwise forgettable acquaintances, no offense)—even if merely to stave off potential pangs of FOMO, or fear of missing out.

The truth is that even if you #deletefacebook, the social network probably still collects data about you. Facebook builds shadow profiles, dossiers of information on people who are not a part of its network. These profiles are fed with contact information uploaded by other users. Try as you might to make yourself invisible, slipping out of sight like a mosquito in the dark, Facebook hunts like a bat.

The U.S. should use this moment to think much harder about what data collection practices it deems permissible in the digital world. In a couple of months, the General Data Protection Regulation goes into effect across Europe. The new law prioritizes user consent and severely penalizes companies in breach of its mandates. It is a start.

Instead of withdrawing, perhaps we should be more publicly pushy.

Have a great weekend.

Robert Hackett


Welcome to the Cyber Saturday edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily tech newsletter. Fortune reporter Robert Hackett here. You may reach Robert Hackett via Twitter, Cryptocat, Jabber (see OTR fingerprint on my, PGP encrypted email (see public key on my, Wickr, Signal, or however you (securely) prefer. Feedback welcome.


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