Facebook in the News: What are the Lessons About Business, Trust and GDPR?
This isn’t another story about Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, although it is where I’ll start. With the recent revelations surrounding Cambridge Analytica and Facebook, it’s easy to forget that Facebook was born from a dispute. Who was telling the truth decided its fate, and as we all know, that decision fell in Zuckerberg’s favor. Since then, both the CEO and the social network have spawned more than few controversies along the way, but none have resulted in the kind of uncomfortable squirming reported recently. Leaked and derogatory emails, scrambles to drop code out to regain trust and the U-turn on the global application of GDPR.
With the campaign to #DeleteFacebook backed by some high-profile people and companies (such as Messrs. Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak), plus a rush of articles on how to minimise your data exposure there, Facebook has become an unfortunate poster child for public distrust. The number of big data breaches in 2017 didn’t help, nor does the daily battle on social media and our TVs between real and fake news, and nation states with seemingly incompatible versions of the same events.
Trust, it seems, is in crisis. As I work for a company that is an expert in data (protecting it, you’ll be glad to hear), it would be remiss of me not to use data points to underpin this problem with trust in our global population. So, here are a few stats for you to mull over:
- Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University worked out that if you read for eight hours a day, it would take you 76 days to read online privacy notices pertaining to your online activity1
- The US Federal Trade Commission estimates that the average person may have as many as 3,000 data points held by multiple companies they have no direct dealings with1
- A global trust survey from the Edelman Institute revealed that 42 percent of those polled had a loss of trust in business2
The same survey that produced that last statistic also polled on the role of the CEO, and the survey’s conclusion was that "for CEOs, building trust is job one." Which is the real point of this blog; trust is becoming too rare a commodity and it needs some focus without waiting for governments to compel businesses to act fairly.
With regard to Facebook, you might well say, "Hurray! The global application of GDPR is a victory for privacy." In some ways it is, of course. This is high-profile and may well influence other multi-national businesses to start thinking in a similar way, if not in time for May 2018, then further into the future.
The cynic in me, however, is tempted to take a different view. First, I suspect as some other commentators have suggested, it’s just too difficult to apply the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to Facebook only for EU residents. Second, GDPR is a really broad path right now (it will get tightened over time), and the gap between having a "defensible position" on the regulation and implementing it in spirit is huge. Facebook can claim GDPR compliance and its global application, but it may be sometime before we find out what that actually looks like.
I sincerely hope that more multinationals implement GDPR in spirit – and globally – and let the world know. It will be a differentiator, and although how a person’s data is treated might not be the only measure of trust, it’s a great start. I truly believe for those that take it seriously, there is a "trust dividend" to be gained in a business landscape suffering from a big deficit of this valuable human characteristic.
1 Facebook scandal: Who else has your data? BBC Technology and Business News, April 10, 2018