Facebook has landed in hot soup over the data breach controversy, which compounded by media and political pressure has made the situation tougher to combat with. The scandal has opened a long withstanding discussion of how companies use their customer’s information. It has also demonstrated how superficial and futile our existing data protection laws are.
The Data Breach Controversy in a Nutshell
On 19th March, reports by New York Times disclosed that a British political consultancy firm called Cambridge Analytica illegitimately accessed and used personal information of around 50 million Facebook users in the 2016 elections. The firm was hired by Trump for his 2016 election campaign. The issue opened the floodgates for a wide range of debates regarding data security laws and rights. Since the revelation, the social media giant has received backlashes for breaching the trust of its users.
Aftershocks of the Scandal
In the five days of following the initial disclosure, Facebook’s stock took a hit of more than 13 percent. An apology from Mark Zuckerberg couldn’t arrest the dwindling value of shares. Both Zuckerberg and the stakeholders have borne the aftershocks of the scandal.
Facebook has come under the scan and is being interrogated over the misuse of data. The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), an independent government body is investigating if Facebook violated a 2011 consent decree. A violation of the consent decree could potentially mean a penalty of $40,000 per violation. Under pressure from media and political fronts, Zuckerberg issued an apology to the users and promised more stringent and clear policies in future. “I’m really sorry that this happened,” Mark Zuckerberg reportedly told CNN, adding he was open to testifying before Congress.
Delayed Product Launch
Amidst the controversy, Facebook has delayed the launch of its smart Home-Speaker with digital-assistant and video chatting capabilities, much in-line with its competitor Amazon’s Echo. This was part of Facebook’s action plan to deploy AI to get more involved in social lives of users. The launch is delayed since the users are expressing concerns with fears of eavesdropping and unauthorized audio recording. There’s widespread distrust among potential buyers. However, as per reports, Facebook may still launch the products in later quarters of the year, once the crisis is countered with. Facebook’s loss is proving to be a great news for Amazon and Google, which is unlikely to face competition soon.
Abandonment of Advertisements
As the largest social media platform’s reputation diminishes over the controversy, investors express worries over brands advertising and campaigning on Facebook. Mozilla has become the first advertiser to announce it has pulled out Facebook advertisements. However, most of the experts are nonchalant and are of the view that this move of boycotting Facebook over the Cambridge Analytica scandal is hypocritical and meaningless unless the social media giant loses users.
A Wake-up Call for Everyone
This data breach controversy serves as a wake-up call for all the firms and internet users. The scandal shows how apparently insignificant pile of information can influence viewpoints in profound ways. This again has highlighted the need for stronger data security laws and policies. It has underscored the importance of maintaining cyber-hygiene and precaution on the part of users while sharing sensitive information on the internet. However, in this digital age, it is very difficult to secure 100% digital security with increasingly sophisticated cyber-attacks. So, proper data security measures have to be structured and implemented.
The following points suggest some measures that can be helpful to maintain some degree of security while browsing the social networking site.
• Profile settings and security should be reviewed periodically and updated.
• Having a strong password and keeping the profile private will help in improving security.
• People should be careful about granting information access to various apps.
Future Course of Actions that Facebook Can Take
• Investigation of applications that had access to user information before Facebook altered its policy in 2014.
• Clear and actionable explanations to its users about the storage and access of user data.
• Privacy control access can be made easier.
• AI can be deployed to monitor political messages, fake news and hate messages.
• Forensic audit of suspicious apps.
A Glimpse of Hope
Amongst all this, a ray of hope is that Facebook is well placed to solve this problem with some of the best minds and sophisticated tools at hand. Communication technologies are an integral part of our lives, but unless we make security a priority, these can be used against us. With increased data generation and collection, data security is increasingly becoming the most challenging aspect of any firm. This data breach episode has rekindled a much-needed debate regarding data security. It would be interesting to see how things manifest from here and how the largest social media platform handles the scandal and gains back the trust of its users.