Some Thoughts About The Facebook Privacy Scandals

The recent Facebook privacy scandal has set us thinking about its business model and the appropriate level of social media regulation. In case you have not been following up closely on this matter, here is some brief background information.

As early as in 2015, Facebook discovered that 87 million of its users’ data had been shared with Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy firm later hired by Trump in his 2016 US Presidential Campaign. Instead of informing its users of this data breach, Facebook demanded all parties involved to destroy the data. However, recent reports revealed that some data had not been destroyed.

This privacy scandal escalated rapidly recently. Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg was required to testify to Congress. During his testimony, he was asked by some senators about the Facebook’s business model.

A Business Model Built on Targeted Advertising

Like many media companies around the world, Facebook’s business model is supported by advertisements. The difference lies in Facebook’s ability to zoom in to the select target group of Facebook users for its advertisers. This targeted advertising, without doubt increases the chances of successful sell through. The question is, how is it done? Interested readers can sign up for economics tuition with well sought-after economics tutor, Mr Edmund Quek to learn more about the various advantages of targeted advertising. Mr Edmund Quek is the principal economics tutor of Economics Cafe Learning Centre, one of the best economics tuition centres in Singapore. Mr Quek is a popular economics tutor who is known for incorporating real life economic events into his economics tuition, to make his economics tuition classes more interesting and relevant.

Tracking technology allows companies like Facebook to collect information of its users, from private messages to photos to your search history. Contrary to many people’s belief, Facebook does not sell your data. Instead, they analyse your data to show you selected information including advertisements based on your preference and interest areas.

In 2017, Facebook’s advertising revenue snowballed to US$39.9 billion, an approximately 50 per cent increase from US$26.9 billion in 2016. What makes Facebook so successful today is not just its impressive user base of 2.2 billion people, but also its unique offering of targeted advertising which enables advertisers to sell their products and services to Facebook users who have shown a higher inclination of liking them.

Appropriate Level of Regulation

Some senators proposed a new bill to protect American people’s online data privacy. The proposed bill will allow consumers the right to see what information has been collected. It will also give them the option to disable data tracking and collection. As for the data breach, it will be made mandatory for companies to notify its users for any such breach within 72 hours. In consultation with your economics tutor in economics tuition, discuss the pros and cons of tightened control on social media.

What these senators may not know is Facebook does allow users to see what kind of data are collected from them. Just click on “Settings” at the top right of your Facebook page, then select “Download a copy of your Facebook data” at the bottom of “General Account Settings”. If you do not wish to see targeted advertisements in your news feed, just click on “Settings”, followed by “Ads” and “Your interest”, you will be brought to a page to view and edit your preferences.

Since 10 April 2018, Facebook has taken actions to rectify its mistake. It is in the midst of informing the 87 million users affected by the data infraction, including over 65,000 users in Singapore. In addition, Facebook will incorporate a prompt on the top of their news feed to inform users which applications and websites they are currently sharing data with and allow them the option to remove them.

In closing, this privacy scandal offers Facebook a good opportunity to close the loopholes and further improve its service. I look forward to seeing Facebook emerging even stronger after this crisis.

Linda Geng

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