Facebook’s Day in Court
Today (11th April) is the second day of Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony in front of the US Congress over the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, a scandal that has rocked the world and brought the tech giant under heavy fire.
Facebook founder Zuckerberg is being grilled by the US congress to find out whether or not it is responsible for misappropriating millions of users’ data, something which Facebook denies.
Facebook claims they had no knowledge that Cambridge Analytica had captured users’ data without their consent and that the company acted on its own. In this blog I’m going to take a look at what actually happened, and why this is an important moment for data privacy.
Data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica is accused of using the data of over 50 million Facebook users without their permission to target voters with personalised political advertising, effectively manipulating the US general election that allowed Donald Trump to take office.
During 2014 Cambridge Analytica hired a Soviet-born American Researcher, Aleksandr Kogan, to gather information on individuals’ Facebook profiles. Kogan initially reached out to around 300,000 Facebook users via an app called This Is Your Digital Life. However the app then proceeded to collect information on the users’ friends, people that had not consented to having their data captured, which amounted to around 50 million users. Kogan then passed this data on to Cambridge Analytica who misappropriated it for their own political agenda. Facebook claimed that once they learned the data had been passed on they removed Kogan’s app and demanded the data collected be destroyed.
Red Faces at Facebook
This story was a massive blow to Facebook. In the days and weeks since the scandal broke their share price has plummeted and many investors have sold their shares. A huge social media campaign was mounted by users who were angry that their data had been passed on without their consent. The #DeleteFacebook saw high profile figures such as Will Ferrell, Elon Musk, and, most recently, Steve Wozniak – co-founder of Apple, all pledge to delete their accounts and no longer user the social media platform.
The End of Facebook?
With all this negative press, legal hearings, falling share prices, you may be asking yourself is Facebook doomed? Well, in truth, the short answer here is no. Facebook is too far reaching and is relied on by too many people to be completely wiped out by this scandal.
Facebook has weathered scandals before and always seems to bounce back; this incident is no different. After Zuckerberg’s speech in front of the US congress yesterday, Facebook’s share price increased by 3.6% and continued to rise, however there will certainly be lessons learned from this debacle.
Why Data Privacy Matters
Millions of people all around the globe trust companies and apps with their private data, which is why there was such a public outcry when this story broke. People need to feel confident that their data is being protected and not misused by companies for their own personal, financial or political gain. In May the new GDPR regulation will come in to effect across Europe, however any country that does business in Europe will have to abide by the new regulations. This means that if any company is found to be capturing or passing on an individual’s data without their consent, they could face fines of up to €20 million or 4% of a businesses annual turnover, whichever is higher.
As well as the legality of misusing data, businesses have a moral obligation to respect the privacy of their users. In a rapidly developing technological world, data security is becoming a critical aspect of our daily lives. Although Facebook will likely weather this storm, smaller companies could well be crushed by a data breach or privacy scandal such as this one.
The Future of Data Privacy
The Cambridge Analytica scandal has undoubtedly damaged Facebook's reputation and made users question how much information they are willing to share with the social media platform moving forwards. Although Facebook claims they have not seen a drop off in users, the reality is that the public has lost their trust in the company, and that is something you cannot put a price on.
Moving forward, companies need to make protecting their customers' data their number one priority. The public response from this scandal shows that people take their data privacy seriously and will hit back against companies that fail to protect their customers’ privacy.
Currently, Zuckerberg is preparing to reel out his pre-written responses in front of the US Congress, responses which have been crafted by the best team of experts that money can buy. I’m sure that he is remorseful about what has happened and that he regrets this data breach, however no real assurances will be given this won’t happen again.
How do you manage customer data in your business? GDPR comes in to effect from May 25th 2018. Are you GDPR ready? Click here to find out more.
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