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Facebook, privacy and GDPR…what does it mean to Generation Z?

The Facebook exodus

If the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal taught us anything, it’s that the information we share on social media, however innocuous it might seem at the time, has a high value. ‘89% of students are now concerned’ over the privacy of their online content. It’s hardly surprising that Facebook, in particular, is falling in popularity among Generation Z — under 25s are now the biggest demographic to make an exodus from the platform. But is privacy the only reason? Opinions are mixed. Perhaps the platform became too ‘uncool’ the moment grandma sent you a friend request. Maybe the rise in cyber bullying had something to do with it, although incidences are higher on Instagram, where the biggest user base is still 18–24 year olds. Or perhaps it’s frustration with the speed at which fake news and hate speech spread across the network.

According to Forbes:

“Facebook’s security staff can access any of the platform’s ordinary two billion profiles…without the user ever knowing their information has been accessed, while if those same security staff attempt to access a fellow Facebook employee’s profile…that employee will receive a notice they are being investigated.”

For a generation with a heightened awareness of online privacy, this kind of imbalance just isn’t going to cut it. And GenZ aren’t alone with ‘nearly one in ten Americans deleting their account’.

The bad data deal

The EU’s new privacy law, GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which goes into effect today (May 25), forbids companies from forcing users to turn over personal information as a condition of using their services. It’s about consent and giving individuals more rights to control their own data and it’s a step in the right direction. Sadly if the steps that platforms take are pre-ticked boxes set to the default of “accept and continue”, tediously complex “manage data” settings and generally creating friction for anyone who wants to change their settings, then it doesn’t feel like progress — especially for privacy-conscious GenZers.

The addition of new features to ‘clear history’ are at least a step in the right direction. Zuckerberg said: “You’re going to be able to use this tool to see the information about the apps and websites you’ve interacted with. You’ll be able to clear all this information from your account. You’ll even be able to turn it off,”.

But the truth is that user data equals targeted advertising and that’s just too valuable for platforms such as Facebook to give up without a fight. Every bit of information shared supplies the platform with yet more data to use for commercial purposes. Of all the reasons for Generation Z to turn their backs on Facebook, perhaps this is one of the most compelling.

Generation Z aren’t naive about the value of their data. Nor are they blind to the role they play as content creators. The typical teen actively shares content across social every day, often featuring recommendations about products and things they love or want to buy. And with 83% of GenZ’ers trusting product information shared by other shoppers more than advertising, it’s essentially free and effective marketing.

Right now they don’t get anything in return for their content, nor do they have any control over where or how their content is used once it’s out there. This isn’t fair, but as we wrote about previously blockchain has the power to change everything.

The way to take back control

Blockchain will enable users to have control and privacy over their content like never before. Because blockchain is a decentralized technology, ‘information is stored not in a single, centralized database, but in a potentially infinite number of places’.

This might sound like the opposite of privacy, but it creates a ledger system with each transaction of data and every transaction must legitimately match up with previous transaction codes. This means, the sharing of this data to an illegitimate source would not be possible without notification. It also means that the real source can be tracked, giving creators greater control over their content, while also addressing issues such as plagiarism and copyright. Importantly, it also means that the creators can get remunerated for the commercial outcomes of their content.

With exciting new technological times ahead, we here at WOM believe in allowing the user to make their own choices about how the information they share online is used — while getting fairly rewarded for the outcomes.

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