Geek on the Street: Will people keep using Facebook despite data privacy concerns?

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress for the first time Tuesday. (Screenshot via C-SPAN)

For many people, Facebook is the swiss army knife of their social lives. They use it to message friends, stay in touch with family, track social events, and keep up with the news.

But recent revelations about how Facebook manages data — notably the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which a Republican-backed political strategy firm accessed data from up to 87 million unwitting Facebook users — is changing the public perception of the social media giant.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent the past two days being grilled by Congress, and plenty of people across the country are unhappy with the platform. But will they actually delete their accounts? I took to the rainy streets of Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood to find out.

Despite the surprising number of people who said that they don’t use Facebook, most said they will stick with the service despite hesitations and concerns.

Dan Smith, left, and Dan Lopez, both employees at healthcare company Direct Supply. (GeekWire Photo / Clare McGrane)

Dan Lopez, an employee at Wisconsin healthcare company Direct Supply, said the recent headlines around Facebook and privacy won’t keep him off the service.

“Will I keep using it? Sure. Everyone’s on it,” he said, adding that he turned off data sharing settings on his account.

His coworker, Dan Smith, prefers another social media service.

“I’d rather use Instagram,” Smith said. But he was surprised to hear that Facebook actually owns the popular image-based platform, which it bought in 2012 for $1 billion.

“I’d still rather use Instagram,” he said after that revelation, “but I probably won’t get rid of Facebook, just to keep in contact with people.”

Yelena Gavralova, left, and Paula Ross, who work at the Fremont UW Medicine clinic. (GeekWire Photo / Clare McGrane)

Paula Ross, who works at the University of Washington Medicine clinic in Fremont, said she’s actually deleted her Facebook account a few times in the past — but she keeps coming back.

“I’ve turned it off several times now,” she said. “I’ve gotten upset or frustrated or even realized my information was being sold and then turned it off and I can’t communicate.”

Family events and keeping in touch with relatives are two reasons she keeps coming back.

“I feel like it’s just part of my life now,” she said. “It’s a habit.”

Yelena Gavralova, who also works at the clinic, said she doesn’t have a Facebook profile at the moment but is open to giving it another go.

“I could give it another chance,” she said. “All my school friends are on Facebook, so I feel like I’m out of the loop.”

Both of the women pointed out just how much happens on Facebook — social interactions, business connections, events, and news are just a few of the things they find valuable about the platform.

Lauren Davis, an employee at Virginia Mason. (GeekWire Photo / Clare McGrane)

Lauren Davis, an employee at Virginia Mason, isn’t sure how she feels about Facebook’s user data scandals. She hasn’t decided whether she’ll keep her account or not.

“I’m on the fence,” Davis said. “I feel like I probably will keep using it, just because it’s an important way for me to stay in touch with people and hear about events. But I’ve considered giving it up.”

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