While it’s hard to feel sympathy for the social media giant, Facebook has had a hellish week. To be honest, Facebook has had a start to 2018 they’d rather forget though I’m sure their CEO Mark Zuckerberg wishes he could go back to discussing algorithm changes. Heading towards the end of March, Facebook has already faced into:
- research showing Facebook is bad for mental health
- backlash over fake news battling algorithm changes
- Cambridge Analytica
As the news broke about Cambridge Analytica, many expected to see the social media giant’s CEO emerge with a strong statement. Instead, Mark Zuckerberg was silent for five days and only today broke his silence.
Cambridge Analytica: The Latest Scandal for Facebook
At this stage, it’s unlikely that Cambridge Analytica is a new news story for you as we’ve had days of reporting and news stories breaking in papers, online and on TV. Cambridge Analytica is a data company who infamously played a major part in getting Trump into the White House. Exploting how Facebook provided access to user data through Facebook apps, Trump’s campaign planners were able to pinpoint specific users with tailored messages in order to influence their voting behaviour. This wasn’t any small operation either with Cambridge Analytica having access to over 50 million sets of Facebook user data. While Facebook didn’t leak data as such, they didn’t do a whole lot to fix the problem when it was highlighted to the and have since come under massive pressure.
A Lack of Trust in Facebook
Since news of Cambridge Analytica broke, Facebook has seen a massive drop in their share price to the tune of 7%. In total, during the first two days of the scandal breaking, Facebook’s value dropped $50 billion. This came as a result of reduced trust in the platform from the public; a drop in trust felt by the whole tech industry with the likes of Amazon and Apple also seeing stock price drops.
With his company reeling, shareholders grabbing pitchforks and #DeleteFacebook movements gathering momentum, Zuckerberg showed he true colours and remained completely silent. Nadda. Zip. Five days passed before Zuckerberg broke silence and made a statement from his own Facebook profile.
So Mark, What the Zuck is Going On?
Zuckerberg set the tone with his statement pretty quickly. Highlight that Facebooks has taken action, continues to act and really cares about the privacy of its users. While his initial post suggested Facebook has no intention of apologising for not protecting the data of users which would eventually fall into the hands of Cambridge Analytica, Zuckerberg did apologise in a CNN interview:
I’m really sorry this happened, our responsibility now is to make sure this doesn’t happen again
The statements reads like a plea to the public as the Facebook CEO tugs on heart strings, stating Facebook has “a responsibility to protect your data, and if [they] can’t then [they] don’t deserve to serve you”. However, the statement descends into the ludicrious when, upon learning that Cambridge Analytica had huge volumes of data Facebook effectively asked the company to promise they would delete data they acquired while violating the platform’s terms of service. But Cambridge Analytica obviously had their fingers crossed when they made that promise as they then went on to use massive volumes of data to influence American voters.
What Is Facebook Doing to Improve Privacy?
Zuckerberg’s statement also outlined plans to improve Facebook’s ability to protect the public’s privacy.
First of all, there’s going to be loads of audits and bans for developers who are taking the piss with people’s data. Next up, as should have always been the case really, Facebook will start limiting the data apps can access, only providing access when it’s really needed. If you stop using apps too, that access will be revoked. Finally, Zuckerberg outlined plans to introduce a timeline feature which will help users understand exactly which apps can access their data and make revoking access from these apps much easier.
In a later CNN interview, Zuckerberg also stated Facebook would be informing everyone whose data was affected by this breach. As it may be difficult to pinpoint who was involved he went further to include users that even might have had their data compromised.
On regulation, Zuckerberg also said he wasn’t sure Facebook shouldn’t be regulated and that he may answer government requests to speak if he is the right person to speak on the topic.
Should You Delete Your Facebook?
If you’re really concerned about all of this, deleting your Facebook is a really bad idea. All those apps will retain access to your data and it will become much harder to revoke their access to your data. If you really do want to delete your Facebook account, I strongly recommend getting your apps tidied up before you do anything else.
If you’re more concerned about seeing poorly informed content and ill-researched articles, install this Chrome Extension: Who Targets Me. Ahead of our Eighth Amendment vote, I strongly recommend you install this extension to better understand who is targeting you with messages.
We discuss the Cambridge Analytica scandal on Episode 5 of Tech Yurt
Updated 22/03/2018: Includes further information from CNN interview
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