Lessons From the Facebook Data Scandal


Reading Time: 3 min

Crikey. The last week must’ve been a tense one at Facebook HQ.

The world’s largest social network has been thrown into disrepute after it emerged that unauthorised data was collected from up to 50 million Facebook users, without their direct consent, by a third party app.

It turns out this data was subsequently used to construct psychographic profiles which may have informed the Trump political campaign. Like data itself, it’s a complex story. The Atlantic magazine has a great breakdown here, in case you missed it.

While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has released a statement with an apology and a promise that they are doing everything in their power to redress their privacy systems, the fact remains that trust has been broken. Here’s what we think the impact will be…

Consumers Are Going to Become Savvier About Data Protection

Facebook was only born in 2004 (as “The Facebook”). It didn’t really take off worldwide until 2007. Its youth can perhaps take some of the brunt for its adolescent approach to data privacy. The speed at which the digital and social networking revolution has taken place has meant that many platforms operate in unchartered territory, making the rules up as they go along. While making megabucks from advertising has undoubtedly always been the end goal, it’s possible that some of the permutations weren’t thought through. Bummer.

The same naivety applies to Facebook Users. How many of us have clicked ‘accept’ on Ts & Cs across the web without checking what they entail?

However, awareness has been mounting of the growing invasiveness of digital tracking. The scandal this week will spur many people to finally think differently about what they are agreeing to. They’re going to start asking harder questions about what they are being asked to share, and exactly how that is protected. Expect more consumers to also start blocking or limiting access.

When simply using Facebook could lead to important elections being skewed, it has gone way beyond a ‘fun’ platform and into very serious territory indeed.

More Awareness That Data is an ETHICAL Entity

The notion of privacy has been severely tested by the internet. It is geographically hard to govern and – to the layman – sometimes mystifying in the technical foundations that underpin it. Plus data can be perceived as a dry, boring area.

The fact is that most of us now have a tracking device installed on us 24/7 in the form of a phone or laptop. We’ve granted access to brands that we engage with, then forgotten about.

What the Facebook scandal has revealed is that data MUST be handled ethically and responsibly by all of us. Brands not only have a moral but a legal obligation to treat data they collect ethically and to not share it without direct consent.

Consumers have a responsibility too, though. We need to start reading the fine print and governing our own data protection. If we’re not comfortable with the level of access being requested, in most cases we can limit it.

A #deletefacebook campaign has been gaining momentum the past week, promulgated by disenfranchised users. In reality, Facebook is too powerful and too useful for millions of people for that to gain true purchase.

However, we encourage everyone – right now – to check the privacy settings on all of their social networks and phones, as well as what apps they’ve allowed access to personal data.

After all, you don’t leave all the windows and doors unlocked when you leave the house.

Do you?