Facebook finale? Or the wake up call we all needed?
From James Cashion-Lozell, Cloud 3
By now nearly everyone has heard about the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Through the creation of a quiz that was signed up to by roughly 300,000 users, the company was able to access the data of as many as 87 million Facebook users. There is no doubt at this stage that this was a massive screw up on Facebook’s behalf. It’s one thing to ask a user to share their data with an app, but to have your data shared with an app via the permission of a friend is an oversight that they have come out and apologised for, something I’m sure they will continue to do for some time yet.
That doesn’t mean that this the end of Facebook though. I had a client last week tell me they probably won’t need a Facebook page for their business because of this, and sure if you’re staying away from Facebook to make some sort of point or because of your ideological standing then that’s your decision, but if you’re doing it because you think Facebook will collapse after this scandal, then I think you’re being short sighted.
I’m not a huge user of Facebook admittedly, I struggle to use it for the business, and I underutilise it for myself personally, mostly to keep in touch with family and old friends. So I find myself in a weird position defending the company, because this was one of the softest data breaches. For the most part, the information accessed was data that was publicly available, at least to your friends. It’s nothing on the scale of the Ashley Maddison data leak (an adult website used for people who are in a relationship to cheat on their spouses), where all of their profiles and some password information was leaked; it’s nothing compared to the LinkedIn hack where hashed passwords for 6.5 million accounts were stolen, cracked and released to the public; and it’s pretty minor compared to the PlayStation hack, where 77 million accounts were compromised. All of these companies have survived their scandals and continue to operate, as I’m sure Facebook will.
This scandal has attracted a lot of attention because so many more people use Facebook than any of those previously mentioned services that were compromised. Everyone is concerned about what it was of theirs that could have been shared, and rightly so. Facebook has been slow to respond but has eventually come out and been transparent, making sure that everyone knows who was affected and how they were affected. If you’re concerned then you should go to the page Facebook has put up for this.
More than anything, this should be a wake up call for users. Facebook has locked down a lot of their apps permissions, and a lot of tech companies globally are doing the same in response. Which is great, and probably should have been done a while ago; but this isn’t entirely on tech companies to resolve. A large majority of these apps ask you for your permission before they access anything, if any users are like my parents, or most of my family really, they don’t read it and they just click accept. That’s where you’re going wrong. You have the right, nay the obligation, to read and understand what it is these apps are accessing, and if you don’t then you shouldn’t accept.
There is a reason Facebook is free, there is a reason a lot of those cool, fun games are free. They’re paid for by advertisers, and what advertisers need to be effective, is data. They need to know who they are targeting with their ads, and see how effective those advertisements are. As a small business owner, I know I want my limited advertising budget spent efficiently, and Facebook helps me do that. For people using Facebook to share updates about your holiday, and keep in touch with friends, you’re not customers of Facebook, you’re Facebook’s product. You’re what they’re selling to advertisers, a reach to potentially millions of people.
So consider that next time you sign up for anything in the digital space. Read the terms and conditions, read the permissions, and make an effort to understand them; so that when the next Cambridge Analytica scandal happens (as there is bound to be), you’re prepared, and you understand your digital vulnerabilities.