It’s too little too late to fix whats already been done so we need to proactively ensure it won’t happen again.
I still remember the day I signed up for Facebook over a decade ago — I got accepted to college on December 15th, 2005 and received my very coveted .edu email. It was a magical feeling not only because I was one of the first in my class to get it but also I was able to connected with hundreds of other students instantly who also got accepted. My universe literally expanded exponentially that day.
It’s like trying to imagine how we got in touch with people prior to cellphones, how did we connect and keep up to date with friends (and remember their birthdays) without Facebook?
Yes I’m that old…
So what really happened with Cambridge Analytica that caused such a backlash?
No one really knows.
We know some of the events that occurred, a nice timeline of he said, she said and some measures taken and other things put in place. But that’s the tip of the iceberg — we know 1% of the story and tanked a company ~$100B, created a backlash to delete it because they’re evil and find alternatives with absolutely no idea exactly why. “They took our data and misused it!”
We know that they got access to some data, extrapolated more, had some app that people freely inputed some more info into and then shared it “unethically” with others. Facebook asked them to delete it, they checked a box indicating they did like every other data firm that has access, and potentially lied about it. Not cool.
We’re just learning now that it was used to micro-target voters very directly and potentially sway their vote with cognitive dissonance. Sadly this was years ago and the perceived damage is already done. And this is only currently what we know they used it for — I’d safely assume it has been used for other nefarious things as well.
Ignorance is bliss sometimes.
You are the product
Without us, Facebook, Google and most of these services are just empty containers. WE fill them up with the stuff we create — they just host, manage and move it around.
My first company Brandyourself focused on SEO and reputation management that built my technological foundation. I learned long ago that anything you put online, can and will be used for or against you. DON’T PUT ANYTHING ONLINE YOU DONT WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT.
When was the last time you paid Facebook? Never.
When was the last time you paid for that news article you read? Very unlikely.
You’re reading this article right now for free / I’m not getting paid. Medium is trying to figure out how to monetize you.
That ad retargeting you? Yah they know you were on that site, clicked that item, got to checkout and didn’t purchase it. They will follow you all around the Internet to get you back and buy it.
Everything you do online is being tracked, mined, extrapolated and used to better understand and target you. You might not be paying monetarily (yet), but you damn well sure are paying for it mentally — with your eyeballs and brain power. That is the currency of our modern day era online.
Waiting 5 days to respond…
It felt like forever, especially in this day and age when we want instant satisfaction and immediate responses. With my background in PR/Communications, this is crisis mode time and I learned the hard way that you try never to make a public announcement until you get as much info and facts as possible.
Scenario 1 (what everyone expected) — News breaks and everyone freaks out but Zuck/Sheryl come out and say we’re sorry and will get back to you with more info once we investigate further. I’d bet everyone would be just as upset, hound them until they got more info and we’d be in the same exact position we’re in now.
Scenario 2 (what happened) — radio silence while they gathered info, facts and prepped for a more coherent response. Albeit it not perfect but definitely not rushed. Everyone is still unhappy and we’re in the same position.
1 hour, 1 day or 5 days, there was no response time that would have pleased everyone. My thoughts are that while this is a big deal (and I do believe it is), this isn’t the biggest problem Facebook (Zuck) wants to focus on sadly.
Deleting Facebook won’t change anything
You already gave them everything they needed and all of your connected apps still have your data. I had over 100 apps, some I haven’t used in years still potentially collecting, harvesting and using my data. Also if you delete Facebook, you need to delete Instagram, Messenger and Oculus Rift too.
- We now get into cars with strangers
- We stay at stranger’s homes
- We allow speakers (and phones) to hear everything we say in our homes now
- We allow connected cameras to watch our homes (inside and out)
- We install smart doorlocks for easier entry
- Your calendar knows where you are , when you’re there and with whom
- Your banks know exactly what you’re buying
- You’re wearing smart watches (and clothes soon) that measure your vitals
If this sounds like some Black Mirror stuff, it’s because it is. Unfortunately that show has more of a darker dystopian feel when in reality while all of this sounds creepy, we are generally benefiting from it more than not.
We need to take more proactive steps, rather than reactive when dealing with this. I’ve been personally cutting down on my Facebook/Instagram usage, especially when I have a free moment to aimlessly scroll through. Twitter has actually taken up a lot more of my time and I can personally/professionally gain more from it.
So how do we regulate this then?
This has been a hot topic for years but nothing has really come of it. Now that it’s a mainstream issue and hot political topic, expect lots of meetings and discussion around it that might actually lead to something.
Should these big tech companies be regulated? 100% yes. What and how? I have no idea and I don’t think most politicians know / the tech companies won’t easily divulge information. Considering they have very conflicting motivations, this should be interesting.
In an interview Zuckerberg said, “I actually am not sure we shouldn’t be regulated.”
It was a very ambiguous and convoluted way of saying, sure please try and maybe I’ll comply.
Two steps forward, one step back
Events like this are an unfortunate necessity. We got very complacent with our data/info security and this was a wake up call to improve it and create more transparency. (I guess Equifax wasn’t enough?)
Facebook is now taking steps to cut off your data supply to older apps, limit their scope of what they can get and how long they have access to it. This is going to hurt the app developer ecosystem.
Facebook is the 2nd largest advertiser (behind Google) and can weather this storm. So depending on the regulations that get passed, it could have an adverse affect on all the smaller companies and potentially give Facebook an even bigger moat. We need to be very careful moving forwards.
Facebook definitely doesn’t want something like this to happen again for countless reasons, so I’m sure they will do everything possible to stop future occurrences. As my mentor always told me “Trust but verify.”
*I heard from a bunch of marketing/ad people who buy on Facebook and this doesn’t change anything for them. Yes they lost a massive amount of their market cap but if it doesn’t hurt their bottom line, then it’s just a bruise. Basically no other platform comes close to the targeted campaigns you can run and the ROI you get — this is an image problem, not a business model problem.