Monday March 26, 2018
The news that political lobbying group Cambridge Analytica misused Facebook data has sparked a worldwide debate about social media, data usage, and information sharing. After the story broke, several high profile users have deleted their Facebook pages, including Elon Musk's SpaceX and Tesla, and British band Massive Attack. It makes sense - the logical first impulse for anyone in the wake of this news is to bolt.
However, bolting may not be as easy as it sounds.
First of all, the Facebook empire is bigger than you may realize. Even users who have deleted their Facebook pages have not deleted their profiles on other social platforms owned by Facebook. The high profile users we mentioned who deleted their Facebook pages weren't hurt too much by exiting Facebook - Elon Musk reported that his companies didn't use their pages very much, and Massive Attack's decision was motivated by their values which have motivated political stances before.
But Musk hasn't deleted his branded Instagram accounts. Much of the public doesn't even know that Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger are all Facebook-owned. You may not think much of the Facebook app anymore, but the Facebook empire as a whole is still going strong. Get this - the Facebook app only has about 2 billion users, but the other three apps have about 3.6 billion users combined. That's almost half of the world's 7.6 billion population.
But here's the even harder reality - leaving Facebook won't solve the problem now.
Leaving may prevent new Facebook data from being shared and misused, but it's too late to take back the information that's already leaked. The data in question is from 2014, before Facebook put many of their data security measures in place. But the data is still valuable because it's used to extrapolate personality traits and psychological trends. That means that whoever has access to the data still knows a lot about the likes, political views, and psychological tendencies of Facebook users. And they can still use that knowledge. Even if Facebook removes ads from their platform, that knowledge can influence anyone through all kinds of marketing media.
The real crux of the issue is this: is it ok for a corporation to even have so much personal data about millions of people, whether they share it or not? It's not just Facebook who has that amount of data. We live in the information age - digital information sharing and storing is part of our lives. Now that it's become so ingrained in our everyday lives, it's not going anywhere - it's only growing.
So, where does this leave Facebook? It means people may not trust it anymore, but they're still using it, in one way or another. As a business owner, it means you probably won't see much difference in your page's performance because not enough people are willing to leave to make that much of an impact. As an individual, it means you should continue to be alert and vigilant in regards to your online presence - it's only getting more complicated from here.