As Facebook continues to apologize after its Cambridge Analytica crisis, its hoping to keep using user data.
During Facebook’s annual developers conference, F8, the platform’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, again apologized for misusing users’ data.
“If you believe, like I do, that giving people a voice is important, that building relationships is important, that creating a sense of community is important, and that doing the hard work of trying to bring the whole world closer together is important, than I say this: We will keep building,” Zuckerberg said in San Jose, California. He spoke with the cadence of a politician rousing a crowd at the end of a stump speech.
[…] The appearance was a chance for Zuckerberg to publicly address Facebook’s problems on his own terms. Earlier this month, Zuckerberg found himself on national TV trying to make amends for Facebook’s screwups, but the situation was anything but a controlled environment. He sat in the hot seat for 10 hours for two congressional hearings. During the grilling, Zuckerberg was asked about illegal opioid listings on Facebook, perceived bias against conservative content and accusations the social network has fueled genocide in Myanmar.
Zuckerberg’s most recent apology came after Facebook ran a commercial last week, in which the company promised to “do more” to protect users’ privacy.
Facebook offers ‘Clear History’
One of those efforts is the announcement of “Clear History,” a future feature that enables users to delete browsing history and other data.
Facebook’s vice president and chief privacy officer, Erin Egan, wrote in the company’s newsroom:
[…] This feature will enable you to see the websites and apps that send us information when you use them, delete this information from your account, and turn off our ability to store it associated with your account going forward. Apps and websites that use features such as the Like button or Facebook Analytics send us information to make their content and ads better. We also use this information to make your experience on Facebook better.
If you clear your history or use the new setting, we’ll remove identifying information so a history of the websites and apps you’ve used won’t be associated with your account. We’ll still provide apps and websites with aggregated analytics – for example, we can build reports when we’re sent this information so we can tell developers if their apps are more popular with men or women in a certain age group. We can do this without storing the information in a way that’s associated with your account, and as always, we don’t tell advertisers who you are.
Zuckerberg posted about the upcoming feature on his Facebook page, too:
In his post, Zuckerberg wrote:
To be clear, when you clear your cookies in your browser, it can make parts of your experience worse. You may have to sign back in to every website, and you may have to reconfigure things. The same will be true here. Your Facebook won’t be as good while it relearns your preferences.
But after going through our systems, this is an example of the kind of control we think you should have. It’s something privacy advocates have been asking for — and we will work with them to make sure we get it right.
New apps and features coming to Facebook
Zuckerberg also announced that Facebook is re-opening its app review process, which it paused following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. He also introduced upcoming features, the biggest of which are dating profiles.
The timing couldn’t be more conspicuous. After all the leaks, and private information given away without consent, Facebook wants you to trust them with what is arguably your most intimate data?
On paper, it all sounds pretty harmless. The dating platform is going to sit on top of regular Facebook profiles, and is an opt-in feature. You will also only find other Facebook users, who have also opted in. Dating profiles are completely separate from your regular profile, and include any information or images you chose to put on there.
Though the announcements seemingly show that Facebook is adeptly cleaning up its reputational disaster and moving forward with its offerings, the company’s PR crisis is far from over.
A review of federal court documents shows that Facebook is facing more than three dozen class action lawsuits over Cambridge Analytica. The complaints seek damages on behalf of millions of consumers for alleged misuse of their data, or for investors who allegedly suffered losses when Facebook’s stock plummeted on news of the scandal.
However, the platform’s future collecting and using people’s data with new features doesn’t appear to be in jeopardy.
“But investors love it, considering Tinder parent company Match Group’s share price fell 22 percent today,” TechCrunch reported.
Along with dating profiles, Facebook is currently testing downvote and upvote buttons with users in Australia and New Zealand.
“This feature allows people to push those thoughtful and engaging comments to the top of the discussion thread, and to move down the ones that are simply attacks or filled with profanity. This does not affect your personal News Feed or interactions with friends.”
The spokeswoman said the new feature was not an official “dislike” button but an additional feature, and Facebook would continue to give users a suite of emojis to express emotions and reactions; such as laughing, love and anger.
[…] It’s not certain whether the company will commit to rolling out the feature in this form—a spokesman told us this is an early test, with no decision made on whether to roll it out for Facebook’s 2.2BN+ user base—but its various tests in this area suggest it’s interested in having another signal for rating or ranking comments.
The features are aimed at improving users’ experience and keeping them on the platform longer, but both features will require Facebook retaining its user base to be successful.
As the platform continues to try to regain users’ trust and keep people on Facebook, brand managers should be on the lookout for how advertising opportunities will change.
From a marketer’s perspective, the Cambridge Analytica breach and the fallout that will be left in its wake could have serious implications for the platform as a marketing tool. We’re already starting to see the first wave of businesses pull their advertising. Companies like Mozilla, Sonos and others have already paused their campaigns and taken a wait-and-see approach in regard to Facebook. Other companies are expected to follow suit.
[…] Given the climate Facebook finds itself in, it’s reasonable to expect Facebook to shift its focus more toward user experience, at the expense of its advertisers.
[…] Facebook has already announced that they will require advertisers to certify that they have user consent before launching custom audience campaigns. The custom audience feature has always been one of the most powerful tools Facebook has to offer marketers, and this announcement is a clear signal that there is more change on the horizon.
Twitter cuts ties with Cambridge Analytica
Along with Facebook, Twitter is scrambling to distance itself from any data misuse crises.
It turns out Aleksandr Kogan, the researcher who obtained Facebook data and sold it to Cambridge Analytica without user consent, had access to some Twitter data as well.
Twitter confirmed over the weekend that Kogan obtained public tweet information in late 2014 and early 2015, but said that no “private” data was accessed. The company defended the data collection by pointing out that “Twitter is public by its nature.”
That’s the key difference here between Twitter’s situation and the one Facebook is in. In Facebook’s case, a lot of the data Kogan collected was private data.
Twitter made the following statement:
Based on the recent reports, we conducted our own internal review and did not find any access to private data about people who use Twitter. Unlike many other services, Twitter is public by its nature. People come to Twitter to speak publicly, and public Tweets are viewable and searchable by anyone. GSR did have one-time API access to a random sample of public Tweets for a five-month period from December 2014 to April 2015.
On Monday, Cambridge Analytica refuted the statement with the following tweet:
Cambridge Analytica has never received Twitter data from GSR or
Aleksandr Kogan, and has never done any work with GSR on Twitter data. GSR was only ever a contractor to Cambridge Analytica and we understand it did work for many other companies.
— Cambridge Analytica (@CamAnalytica) April 30, 2018
“Twitter has made the policy decision to off-board advertising from all accounts owned and operated by Cambridge Analytica,” a company spokesperson said in a statement. “This decision is based on our determination that Cambridge Analytica operates using a business model that inherently conflicts with acceptable Twitter Ads business practices. Cambridge Analytica may remain an organic user on our platform, in accordance with the Twitter Rules.”
The decision to cut Cambridge Analytica off from its advertising offerings and issue statements highlights Twitter’s attempts to cut off a crisis of its own before one begins. It’s a logical move for a platform also struggling to retain users and woo marketers—especially after it announced more than 30 partnerships for video content on Twitter this year.
What do you think of the statements from Facebook and Twitter? How would you advise the platforms to continue to foster trust and transparency?