Should we trust Facebook with our private interactions?
Last year, we identified the top ten ways that social media was changing. Key factors were moving away from the big behemoth networks to more bespoke, trusted, private networks centred around common interests and shared passions, and delivering richer insights, engagement, and opportunities for leaders, brands, communities and organisations.
With Facebook announcing a key focus on groups and smaller communities within the Facebook platform at the F8 Conference this week, this movement is now coming into fruition. However, with huge data scandals continuing to be highlighted across the news and a level of distrust still plaguing this tech giant, is this the right place for groups and communities to connect through private interactions?
While there is no doubt that Facebook has the users to connect via private interactions (Q1 saw an 8% increase in DAUs year-on-year) and private groups and micro-communities are not a new thing on the platform, there are some big concerns as to whether we should buy into their new world (or at the very least, be cautious of this move):
What About Data Privacy and Protection?
With Facebook openly planning to take a $5 billion hit from the Federal Trade Commission for privacy violations (a record penalty against a US tech company), a key question that continues to arise is: if they can’t be trusted to protect users and data in a public newsfeed and network, then why would we want to trust them with our private moments – either through groups or messaging?
How Will They Track and Use Information?
At the F8 conference, Zuckerberg did not go into any detail regarding how this new focus on groups and private interactions would impact the ways that Facebook collects and uses our personal information. It would be ignorant to assume that Facebook will be ceasing the collection of data on your private interactions. However, we should all be hoping that this will also bring about a new level of scrutiny around how private interaction data is collected, stored, and used by any company (if at all).
How Will They Generate Advertising Revenue?
This leads to the next big question. The $56 billion question, to be exact. With Facebook generating most of its $56 billion revenue from targeted advertising based on user behaviour and interests, it is hard to believe they would be willing to forgo this big chunk of cash to give back pure privacy to their users. Data is intrinsic to their ad revenue and information about users’ inner most thoughts, conversations and interactions is likely to be a dangling carrot too hard to resist, particularly with any pressure to deliver financially increases.
How Will They Moderate Private Interactions?
The final big question and one that continues to be brought into the limelight is moderation. From hate speech, to political campaigning, to live videos of massacres, Facebook is still in the doghouse when it comes to its abilities to moderate its network. While private groups may take this content off a public wall or feed, Zuckerberg sidestepped questions at F8 as to how the company will mitigate moderation challenges across private groups, communities and messaging. This focus on closer communities could be perceived as an easy way out for Facebook as it will reduce the amount of public content to moderate; however, it could quickly become an unmoderated, unwieldly beast of private groups spawning negative content.
There are many questions still to be answered by Facebook regarding privacy, data, moderation and, in particular, the specific details around these areas to show that they are serious about tackling and managing the important issues with their current platform. Being transparent about all these areas is surely the only way forward that users will accept.