-OpEd-

MUNICH — In the aftermath of the Facebook data scandal, some users have been deleting their accounts. It's an understandable gut reaction, but it's also a declaration of surrender because it's not up to the individual to oppose the superiority of Internet companies. That's the job of the politicians.

Digital abstinence cannot be the solution, especially since many other platforms on the Internet collect data. Anyone who wants to be consistent would also have to boycott Whatsapp and Instagram, both of which belong to the Facebook group. And you'd better bury your smartphone while you're at it because two-thirds of all apps share private user data with third parties.

The consequences of the data scandal surrounding Facebook must go further than a personal boycott. They should be reflected in how politics deal with Internet companies. Only politics can lay down rules for better data protection. And critical users of these platforms are in a better position to demand such protection than digitally abstinent people. Instead of deleting your profile, it makes more sense to stay and be critical.

Every now and then you browse through this address book and get in touch with someone. Often, it doesn't go further than a few hackneyed phrases, but sometimes an interesting conversation can come about.

Facebook doesn't make life better or more beautiful, but it is one of several ways to access the world. It shows you some interesting news and is also a practical address book because it holds a reservoir of acquaintances from different phases of our lives. Every now and then you browse through this address book and get in touch with someone. Often, it doesn't go further than a few hackneyed phrases, but sometimes an interesting conversation can come about.

Of course, there's a lot of irrelevant stuff on Facebook, just like in analogue life. But that's not a reason to wave it goodbye. And the fact that you can come across comments from users with completely different political views on Facebook is actually a reason to stick with it — even if the opposition is all too clear. Finally, the digital life can also be a way to leave the filter bubble of our analog circle of friends.

When you quit Facebook, you're cutting yourself off from part of the reality of the 21st century. The platform is simply too relevant to be ignored. The latest scandal is absurdly indicative of that state of affairs: The fact that Cambridge Analytica can influence elections with the help of Facebook provides material for today's biggest social experiment. Anyone who wants to have a say in the debate about this experiment should know how Facebook works.

Above all, don't give in to the desire to keep the world constantly informed about everything you do. Restrict your own narcissism, in other words.

A reasonable reaction would, therefore, be to reflect and adapt your relationship with the platform accordingly. Don't use your real name. Use a separate email address. And block cookies that track your browsing behavior. Above all, don't give in to the desire to keep the world constantly informed about everything you do. Restrict your own narcissism, in other words. This rule applies on the Internet as well as in the analogue world.

Anyone hoping to click her way out of Facebook is wrong anyway. The deleted data remains on the servers; it' just that you don’t get to see it anymore. It continues to be used and to be evaluated. And Facebook not only collects data from its users, but also from their friends and people who browse websites that have Facebook applications installed and use the white-on-blue thumb. Wherever that thumb appears, it means Facebook has deployed its nets.

As fatalistic as it sounds, you can hardly escape Facebook. The company is increasingly unlikely to care whether you still have an account there or not. It creates shadow profiles for everyone who doesn't. Facebook will only change its business model if major advertisers boycott the network in large numbers, and if politicians regulate the company better and critical users articulate their political will in that direction.


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