By Anthony Quintano from Honolulu, HI, United States (Mark Zuckerberg F8 2018 Keynote) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

This is not okay, Mark!

Why Facebook lost the touch to its users and what companies can learn from this!

Let’s assume you and I know each other for years now. Your vacation is coming up and you need someone to water the plants and feed your cats while you are gone. You commit your keys for your apartment, the physical manifestation of your private safe space, to me. In order to being able to contact you in the case of an emergency you additionally provide me your private phone number. This is a hell lot of trust you place in my hands and I would be honoured to have someone who would trust me that much, right?

However, now let’s picture this: After your trip, you realize that I was taking a stroll through your apartment. I checked out how you live, made conclusions on what you might think, what your private interests are and gave away all of that information to other people, plus gave them your private number with the purpose of making a commission on what ever they would afterwards trying to sell to you. How would you feel?

Violated? Disappointed? Angry? One could also just say it was your fault to trust me that much? Would that change anything? Probably not.

I assume you would feel all of the emotions and you would probably never ever want to interact with me again. So, why are you not feeling this way when it comes to Facebook?

This morning Techcrunch released an article stating that Facebook conformably uses your phone number, which you provided for the purpose of the two factor authentication (2FA), to target you with ads. The 2FA method is used to make your account safer so it cannot be hacked that easily. This means you provided them your number for the pure purpose to make logging into your account more secure. However, they mistreated that purpose and used the data in a way that was not clearly part of this deal.

It is yet another sad and pressing indication why Facebook is not caring for its users anymore. It has lost its user-centric vision of connecting people all around the world. It just uses every possibility to increase the ad revenue. And it goes on. Facebook will soon be using the information on Whatsapp users to target you with apps despite the encryption wrapper around your messages. This is hypocritical. While I don’t want to go too deep on the ethical problems behind this behavior, I do want to raise attention to why it is important to keep the user in mind especially when it comes to data.

We already see a sharp decline in users and hence ad revenue among the probably most data literate user group of Facebook — the teens and digital natives. Many users claimed already that the Cambridge Analytical scandal was the last straw that led them quitting FB, says marketwatch. This will further be elevated by news like the one from this morning. Facebook lost 2.8 million users and faced a 20% drop in value after this.

What can companies learn from this?

First and foremost, it is a sharp reminder for companies to keep their user’s needs and wants in the center of their doing, especially when it comes to data-driven products and services. With an intangible asset like data, it is easy to blank out the actual human element behind the data and just use it because you have it.

This is where data literacy and formats like Data Thinking enter the picture. When making business decisions on features and services, employees need to have the user in mind. Many experts believe that the human element will still be essential within the digital processes, regardless of the level of automation that we reach. In fact, we cannot loose our moral obligation either. Just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should. We need to have a view on this issue that shifts the individual from a pure consumer towards a questioner, debater and explorer. There are many good things we can do through data and this doesn’t mean that revenue needs to suffer, the opposite is the case. Good data usage will increase the trust people have in your brands and hence will extensively drive revenue while reducing churn in the future. Who doesn’t want to feel safe, right?

However, how do we shape our organizations to be ready for this? Companies need to instill a higher level of data literacy in their employees, helping them to understand the moral responsibilities towards their users better but also provide them with the technological understanding to develop new products and services with the user and data in mind. They need to have a creatively safe environment to be able to explore technologies like AI and see how it can be used in the best possible way. Most importantly, through formats like Data Thinking, employees understand the benefits that are beyond profit optimization which are then way more purposeful and value-oriented. They may start with simple, basic charts and trying to understand the technical implications through using post-its but ultimately they will shape better products that people are enjoying in then long run and they will trust.

A personal note…

On a personal note though, I know it is hard to get off the Facebook bandwagon. I use it myself constantly to spread my content and also to stay in contact with friends. However, I try to reduce it as much as possible. I haven’t figured out how to not use it anymore and I invite you to brainstorm ideas in the comments. Furthermore, I invite you to join me in a more data literate and morally acceptable data world.

We have powerful tools and insights nowadays, let’s use them accordingly.

Moreover, I am happy to answer any questions regarding Data Thinking. Please leave a comment with your thoughts and ideas.

My series of posts is about making you think a little deeper about every day concepts. I look forward to having you follow along and reading what you throw at me. Peace!

Twitter: @tkronsbein

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