It’s a question that gets asked every time Facebook does something wrong, which seems to happen with rather depressing regularity: could this be the point at which public opinion finally begins to turn and people to delete their accounts, or at least stop using the service so much? Or will the vast majority of users ignore the latest incident, the way they have so many similar events over the past few years? The latest incident, of course, was a report from The New York Times just before the holidays that suggested Facebook provided data access to certain tech giants that went far beyond what it told users, even after the company promised the Federal Trade Commission in 2011 that it would clean up its act.
Although the details of the Times report were exaggerated in some cases (as I have noted), the news was enough to convince certain prominent users and celebrities to quit the network. Walt Mossberg, the veteran technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal, announced that he was deleting his account, as did Columbia University law professor and author Tim Wu, and the singer and pop-cultural icon known as Cher. Reaction to the Times story triggered a #DeleteFacebook hashtag campaign on Twitter, one that hit the trending topics section, and a number of news outlets—including The New York Times—wrote articles about how to delete your account (your account isn’t actually deleted until 30 days after you make the request, and it can take up to 90 days for all your data to be removed).