My personal story
Though I have never used WhatsApp, I myself have been using Facebook for quite a long time (about 8 years or so) and so do people around me. It is worrying that Facebook (along with Zalo, a popular messaging service in Vietnam) has become a de facto main communication channel between schools and students/parents and among family members.
It is hard to switch 100% to another service: people are too familiar with it, and are already connected to their “friends”2. They are reluctant to switch to something new, which includes choosing an unknown service and probably a client, creating a new account3, and adding people there. And if no one is moving, you can’t really move either.
I haven’t used Facebook or Instagram for about two weeks, and I’m certainly happier - I don’t have to deal with the negativity from Facebook drama or typical Facebook user hostile behaviors (my fault for joining so many groups). I still have to use Messenger, though, since my friends refuse to use matrix. I will delete that soon enough, along with my Facebook account.
Things to do
Deleting Facebook account probably does not keep you entirely from Facebook’s greed, but it sure is a great first step: you thereby declare your privacy and that you do not allow them to collect your data.
Facebook can probably track you via other means, such as ads, or embedded comments on other websites. To avoid this, block trackers with some extension such as Ghostery or Privacy Badger. It also blocks tracking ads from Google.
Facebook is not the only Big Brother that keeps surveilling you: on top of my head, there are Microsoft, Google, and Apple. Unfortunately, they stand behind ones of the most popular operating systems for a lot of devices, namely Windows, MacOS, Android4, and iOS. This gives them a lot of power over a majority of users - they can easily listen to every process you run, every file you download or upload. Computer users should switch to a GNU/Linux distros of their choice for their own good. For mobile phone, you can try installing Replicant (Android replacement) or buy a GNU/Linux mobile phone (e.g. PinePhone or Librem), though I cannot confirm their ease of use, for I haven’t tried.
It doesn’t stop there: they also own many services that may pose privacy concerns or censorship whose replacements can be found below:
- YouTube: PeerTube is an alternative, though it can be slow if there is no peer near you. Invidious and NewPipe are free clients that let you watch YouTube videos without ads (i.e. Google’s trackers). Don’t mind about “supporting them” with ads - it’s not worth it - you can support them by donating them some money instead.
- Google search: I’m not aware of a decent free search engine, but DuckDuckGo and Ecosia claim they respect user’s data and do not store nor sell them
- Google translate: if you’re a language learner like me, I strongly suggest looking up in dictionary instead.
- Google Map: I’m not aware of a good alternative, please suggest some
- GMail: tons of mail providers are out there, it’s not hard to find one. The only problem is that so many services allow you to sign in with GMail that you probably are dependent on it by now.
- GitHub: git hosting is very common. I use disroot and source hut, but there are others such as gogs or GitLab. Even though I’m not aware of tracking via GitHub, there has recently been an incident proving its untrustworthiness.
- LinkedIn: again, I’m not aware of free alternative for the same purpose, though I didn’t find LinkedIn useful myself.
For many people, this is acquaintance plus or minus family. ↩︎
Creating a new account should be a simple process, but for many people, especially the elderly, find this troublesome and have to rely on their children for it. ↩︎
Even though Android itself is free, it contains many nonfree parts, and mobile phones running on Android are often shipped with Google Play Service (and/or sometimes the surveillance system of the manufacturer) ↩︎