A #DeleteFacebook movement has swept the web recently, and not because people want to boost their productivity or maintain their mental health.
The movement comes off of the back of revelations from a whistleblower, a former employee of Cambridge Analytics, who disclosed that the company has been collecting and using Facebook users’ data without their explicit consent, to create ultra-targeted content designed to play on people’s emotional vulnerability. According to Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower, this content was intended to sway election results in a variety of countries.
The story so far
Cambridge Analytica is a company that uses personal data to understand the nuances of people’s personalities and how these can be addressed to prompt someone to take an action, from buying to making a political choice. This all sounds harmless — companies using data to create and target us with relevant ads is fairly commonplace. However, when you look at two of Cambridge Analytica’s most notable clients: the Brexit ‘Leave’ and Trump campaign, the picture looks very different..
The allegations state that Cambridge Analytica bought data illegally from a Facebook app without consent from those affected, securing the data of 50 million users.
To make matters worse, it seems Facebook knew what Cambridge Analytica was doing in 2015, and though they asked them to stop, it’s been reported that Facebook never checked to see if they actually did, arguably turning a blind eye to the way Cambridge Analytica used the data. This is why Zuckerberg and his team have come under so much fire.
From ordinary users to big companies, there is a growing sentiment of mistrust about just how safe your data is on Facebook, and the rest of the internet’s, hands.
How have Facebook reacted?
While Zuckerberg remained pretty quiet during the unveiling of the scandal, he has now said sorry, or at least that he’s ‘sorry this happened.’ About time, bearing in mind the companies stocks plummeted by 7% after the information was made public, and according to Quartz, the market value decreased by $40 million in a matter of hours. Although the misuse of data wasn’t explicitly Facebook’s fault, the access to it was, and that’s what is giving people the heebeegeebees about using the platform: private data that was meant to be restricted was potentially used to swing two of the most divisive campaigns in history.
Zuckerberg himself admitted in an interview with CNN that Facebook and other platforms shouldn’t be excused from regulation, and agreed that higher security and regulation was needed to stop excessive data mining. In an interesting move away from digital, simple, black and white print ads appeared in UK papers that not only outlined some of Facebook’s planned actions but also apologised for the way they mishandled data. These ads are fitting, considering a lot of users and businesses have deleted the platform, including Elon Musk and Cher.
The app regulation is important, because this is how all the information was accessed in the first place. In the print ads, as well as just after the of the whistleblowing, Facebook says it will be changing the way apps are regulated and will be investigating every single one currently live on the platform. But is this really enough?
What does this mean for Facebook?
There are currently no specific stats about how many users have deleted facebook, but it’s clear that people aren’t happy. That being said, it doesn’t spell the end of the social giant just yet. Whilst those who are already sceptical of how their data is used by digital platforms and large companies may be happy to delete, for a lot of people it’s not really an option. The social network has become so ingrained in our day-to-day lives that for a lot of people, it’s one of the only ways to keep regular contact with family members and friends around the world with minimal effort.
Taking politics out of the equation, most people are aware of the way Facebook uses data to target ads, and are generally okay with it. Though they might not be too happy about some of the extreme ways Facebook and other sites can hold onto data (which will most likely be the major shift in public usage and reform) the majority of users know that their data will be used to understand what they like, what they don’t like, and how to sell to them.
It does mean, however, that Facebook is going to have to really consider their revamp and the way it stores and shares information. Apologies are one thing, but if Zuckerberg and his team attempt to shrug this off as anything less than gross mistrust, they might see their audience dwindle, and there may be a space for a new competitor platform to come into the spotlight, not dissimilar to what we saw with Uber.
When Uber failed to remove its surge charges during protests against Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ a similar movement to #DeleteUber swept online. The campaign didn’t make a massive dent in its numbers – about 200,000 people deleted the app during the wave but as of 2016 was 40 million strong – but it paved the way for one of Uber’s competitors, Lyft, to rise up the ranks and surpass Uber in downloads for the first time.
USAGE AND BUSINESS SIDE
Many businesses, brands, and agencies use Facebook Business when it comes to their online ad strategies, and how they use the platform will most likely change going forward. For example, Mozilla and Commerzbank are two of the first brands to have announced they will be pulling ads from the platform until they tighten their security and protection of user data. ISBA, (Incorporated Society of British Advertisers) also called on Facebook to sort itself out. While Facebook has and continues to apologise, businesses and users alike seem to be waiting in limbo for anything substantial to happen.
Despite the controversies, many companies don’t want to have to jump ship: so many strategies rely on running ads on Facebook and Instagram. It’s a lot of trouble and if there are people still using the app, it makes sense to stay. But if Facebook doesn’t alter their settings soon, it may cause more companies to follow Mozilla and look for an alternative route.
How will this affect the digital world?
There will undoubtedly need to be some fundamental changes. Privacy compliance is a major topic right now with the introduction of GDPR next month, and if anything this is a wake-up call to how far it’s possible to take your data. In the world of business and digital marketing, nothing tangible has changed yet. But what does this all mean for the social platform and Facebook Business in the future?
“Brands will not move away from a channel that offers a myriad of granular and effective targeting options in the short-term.” Says Dave Angus, Curated Director of paid search. “The show will go on, however, how quickly will Facebook’s effectiveness and trust diminish? Given the likely change to their advertising model, I foresee a bumpy ride for Facebook going forward as brands look to redistribute budgets across other channels and marketing approaches.”
And possibly not just Facebook either. This scandal has prompted all of us, from novices to digital natives to take a long hard look at the way we use the internet and what we’re actually happy with sharing with the world. A segment on ITV’s Good Morning proved to a mum just how easy it was to find all of her, her partner and even her children’s information just by looking at her Facebook profile, and I found myself going through every app I’d ever downloaded and assessing its security.
In the end, it largely all comes down to trust – people are angry and upset that their data has been used without their knowledge, and it won’t be easily forgotten. Both Cambridge Analytica and Facebook are under investigation, with Zuckerberg ordered to justify Facebook’s policy to the Supreme Court and with Alexander Nix, the CEO of Cambridge Analytica now suspended, we’re not yet sure just how deep the wrongdoing goes.
Even though searches for #Delete Facebook have gone up by over 400% since the story began, it’s unlikely that we’re all going to delete Facebook overnight, but waking up to just how easily data can be used for corruptive purposes will make us more wary in the future. A lot of us had no idea just how much data Facebook had on us, but now we do. Sometimes it takes an uncovering like this for positive changes to be made, and now that we’re aware, we hope it will never happen again.
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