Remember the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal? Data from social media was harvested by the political firm during Donald Trump's presidential campaign and allegedly used to attempt to influence voter opinion on behalf of politicians who hired the company.

Following the discovery, Facebook apologised amid public outcry and falling stock prices. There was wringing of hands, public discussion on ethical standards for social media companies and calls for greaterconsumer protection and rights.

For many people it felt like the final straw. It seemed we were being spied on and we were outraged. We were quitting facebook en-masse, complete with generatiional hashtag #deletefacebook.

Except we didn't.


The outrage was barely six months ago but already we've slipped back into old habits.

In fact latest figures show that in New Zealand we're using it more than ever. Eighty per cent of Kiwis are regular users of Mark Zuckerberg's juggernaut — up from 75 per cent two years ago, according to Nielsen statistics.

And the growth area appeas to be the older generation as younger people switch to newer social media channels. Even then, the next most popular is Instagram which was bought by Zuckerberg.

There are myriad reasons to take a break from social media. Spending real time wth friends and family rather than virtual time with your head bowed to your phone or tablet is the most obvious.

But, as an investigation in the Weekend Herald showed, there are more compelling reasons to switch off.

Facebook's MO is a reward loop designed to trap the user, little different from the dopamine hit of gambling.

And the behemoth collects data which can be used to influence you. It knows how old you are, where you live, your interests and hobbies, websites you visit, travel plans and much more. It uses that information for everything from targeting you with advertising to ensuring your world view is reinforced.

There are more than 2 billion users worldwide and, short of the ocean or the atmosphere, there is nothing else on the planet that influences so many people, according to academic and author Siva Vaidhyanathan.

Facebook has just turned 14 and the once troublesome but sweet tot is turning into a teenage tearaway.

Government's around the world are wrestling with whether to — and how to — stem that influence while allowing the freedom both the company and its users deserve.

It's a balancing act. But one we don't need to wait for legislation for - the power is, literally, in our hands.