Is Facebook Listening?

It’s been about six months since Mark Zuckerberg was defending his legacy of Facebook. Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm with connections to the Trump campaign, had gathered and analyzed the confidential data of as many as 87 million Facebook users without their explicit consent.

Zuckerberg was consistently apologizing and trying to make amends with the public. Whether his apologies were sincere, or it was just part of the Public Relations strategy, it is a fact that Zuckerberg took a heavy hit with his finances. He himself lost nearly $11 billion.

“This episode has clearly hurt us,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. “We have to do a lot of work about building trust back.”

However, Gizmodo — a design, technology, science and science fiction website — released a report that continued to diminish the trust of the public. Facebook was also giving advertisers access to target phone numbers that users provided specifically for security reasons.

The purpose of two-factor authentication is to enhance privacy and security. Often times, this includes providing a phone number to receive log-in codes through text messages, but these phone numbers are being distributed to advertisers.

Furthermore, Facebook stated that nearly 50 million user accounts were exposed; this is the biggest data breach in the company’s history. After Cambridge Analytica used their breach to exploit the private social media activity of Americans, Zuckerberg was called to testify in front of Congress to explain how this happened. Congress was also debating if it was necessary for the government to interfere and pass laws to guide social media sites to prevent this from happening again.

Before the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook was under scrutiny and being harshly criticized over the spread the Russian propaganda and fake news. Overall, Facebook has not had the best year.

Testifying in front of Congress should have been daunting enough for Zuckerberg and the company to change their ways, but it’s questionable if they meant what was said. Is Facebook truly trying to make amends and respect its users?

At the end of the day, it can be argued that money is money. Cash is king. Facebook is looking for profit, and this cannot be ignored. Technology is evolving at a rapid rate, and users are keeping up. Hackers and hacktivists and more are manipulating technology for their own gain, and this is something that must be recognized.

I believe that Facebook learned a lesson after the Cambridge Analytica episode. It jeopardized the website, and their sales crashed. A large sum of money was lost. The trust and respect from the public were lost.

Mark Zuckerberg testifying before Congress on behalf of his company, Facebook. He had to explain how his company let an advertising company gather and user millions of users’ data without their permission. (Andrew Harnik/AP Photo)

Zuckerberg is a shy and timid individual, and his Public Relations team provided a thorough outline of possible answers. He is known for being nervous during interviews, and this is why his presence before Congress was a statement. Although he was caught off guard at times, he built up and maintained a sense of confidence as the day progressed.

“Our team should follow up with you on that, Senator.”

It can be argued that Zuckerberg was unprepared for the questions directed towards him, but it could also be argued that the questions being asked were a bit unfair. Some of the inquiries were too specific, in terms of numbers and statistics, and Zuckerberg kept stating that his team would gather the necessary information and follow up on that concern.

During his testimony, Zuckerberg admitted that his company has been led to believe Cambridge Analytica had deleted the user data it had collected. The alarming part is that Facebook had not alerted the Federal Trade Commission, but he was quick to assure the senators that his company would handle the situation differently today.

The fact is that Zuckerberg tried to hide this issue, and that is something to worry about. Arguably, the hardest thing to do in life is to admit your mistakes. Imagine this on a corporate level. Facebook, an international social media platform, is taking a risk when it admits to a mistake concerning privacy.

As a Public Relations major, I understand and encourage honesty and transparency; however, it is not always the easiest to do. Fear is a powerful emotion, and this is why I’m afraid Facebook didn’t really learn it’s lesson after Cambridge Analytica. The desire to survive and prosper as a company is strong, and it’s hard to admit to millions of users that you let their information be exposed to advertisers. I believe that if something similar happened again, Facebook would not act differently. Instead, they’d try to work harder to hide it, because they know they have more to lose the second time around.