Our industry has always been plagued by controversy over social media privacy settings, especially its real-world implications. Thanks to being primed by pop culture and real life, we all knew this was going to happen eventually. You know the classic “Has technology gone too far?” trope, but now we’re seeing it more prevalently in all aspects of our lives – security issues, political influences, Black Mirror episodes, etc. It’s hard not to worry about the consequences of a technology boom like the one we’ve had in the past ten years. Now with social media’s technological ramifications looming over our quotidian lives, we’re getting closer and closer to the world of Black Mirror.
In case you missed it…Facebook was rocked by a social media privacy settings data breach scandal two months ago. How bad are we talking? Oh, they just lost $80 billion because the incident affected 50 million users bad. Man, that’s really bad. And it’s not just that there was a data breach, it’s the fact that this data was sold to Cambridge Analytica (although it was prohibited by Facebook) to manipulate targeting for elections, including Trump’s campaign. All of this scrutiny comes with the territory of being the most popular social networking app, and this recent snafu has proved what many naysayers were already thinking: we can’t trust social media.
Critics are using this opportunity to call for an overhaul of social media privacy settings, if not an entire cleanse. Facebook said in a statement a week after the scandal, “The last week showed how much more work we need to do to enforce our policies, and to help people understand how Facebook works and the choices they have over their data.” In response to the breach, the networking titan has promised to unveil new tools to see and access the data they collect on its users. In the subsequent fall out, the world saw Facebook in crisis mode, scrambling to regain their footing. People were disgusted that Facebook is just another money-grubbing company willing to sell out their loyal users; you can imagine that major trust was lost. While the data breach may not have impacted you directly, its implications touch all users of any online platform. This could happen (if it hasn’t already) to any app you’re on that you’ve given your personal information to.
So how does this affect our vocation? Well, social media is our business. As a millennial, I live and breathe this stuff. It was hard enough to convince my mother that the social media agency I work at is a legit opportunity. I love being on social channels because it makes me feel closer to my friends and loved ones than I’ve ever been. That’s why it was easy for me to gravitate towards working in this field – I felt comfortable helping brands online build their persona through community management and content creation. So while the Facebook Cambridge-Analytica affair may not have affected me or my clients directly, it harms the reputation of this channel we’re using daily that’s been formerly beloved in the industry. What I’ve seen in the two months following the incident are updated privacy policies from most, if not all of the social channels I use. These other social competitors have watched and learned from Facebook’s errors, because it could’ve been any of them. Yet I’m wondering just how much users really care, as no one I know will take the time to peruse privacy policies of all the apps and websites they give their information to. After all, how many times have you clicked “Agree” on the iTunes terms and conditions without reading the pages and pages of text? If we’re being pessimistic and assuming people are leaving Facebook, how can I reach an audience that isn’t there? Will people post online less, or delete their profiles entirely? If people don’t trust a platform tied to our livelihood, then we won’t be winning that Narcos money any time soon. We expected better from The Zuck because Facebook has been around for 14 years. But ultimately I believe that (to borrow the lyrics of Big Sean) the social company took an L but they’ll bounce back. Facebook is recovering, slowly but surely. Let this incident be a lesson to all platforms out there: transparency is key. The online world needs to translate to the real world, otherwise that discrepancy will alienate its users.