Facebook is facing the biggest reputational hit since it was founded. Its share price has fallen dramatically. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been forced to defend the company to senators.
But then, Facebook is, in conjunction with organisations like Cambridge Analytica, responsible for exposing the personal data of 87 million Facebook users without their consent.
In a harsh way, the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal has done us all a favour. Suddenly, there’s greater awareness of and support for Europe’s new data privacy law, the GDPR - amongst both consumers and businesses. Even tech companies that previously lobbied the EU Parliament to stop these tougher data protection rules are now bending the knee.
Ashen-faced towards the US Congress, Zuckerberg said that GDPR was “going to be a very positive step for the Internet” and that “everyone in the world deserves good privacy protection”.
Initially slow off the starting block; since the scandal broke, Facebook has moved quickly to introduce what it calls new “privacy experiences”. These give users more control of their data in what looks like a big step towards GDPR compliance.
On the changes, Facebook’s Stephen Deadman, deputy chief Global Privacy Officer, said: “The GDPR and EU consumer law set out specific rules for terms and data policies which we have incorporated for EU users.”
But what about the public outcry? The #deletefacebook campaigns on Twitter and Facebook? Tesla/Space-X CEO Elon Musk deleted his business accounts and countless others claimed they were going to, but the effect has not been significant. And Facebook has certainly not extended its GDPR compliant environments to the rest of the world (in fact some accounts have been moved out of Facebook’s Ireland designated HQ, to remove the requirement for GDPR compliance).
For those who stay, how will this affect Facebook’s business model? Will people start to use and treat their data differently? Will third party apps be put off? There’s also the question of Facebook’s income stream and whether advertisers will think twice in future. None of these are currently clear, but the answer is likely to be: no rapid change, no sudden revolt from consumers. But we might be at what is in future seen as the start of a new civic privacy consciousness.
During an April debate at the FT City Network among 50 of the City of London’s most senior business figures, Samir Desai of Funding Circle is reported to have said: “Data security is fundamental to the daily functioning of the world’s economies. As business leaders, nothing is more important than instilling confidence in consumers that their private information is secure. If we breach this trust, it has enormous consequences.”
Desai continued, saying: “I hope the introduction of new regulation, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which we support, has the impact on consumers it has been designed for.”
If you need help preparing your business for the GDPR, Me Learning has prepared a series of online training courses alongside data privacy experts Clayden Law. For more information, click here.