When you first joined Facebook, were you concerned about your privacy?
Before diving into the Facebook controversies of today, let’s take a look at where social networks began. Though not an exhaustive list of all the social media channels both then and now, the following timeline is to get us thinking about the evolution of social networks.
LinkedIn, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+ are arguably the most well-known and successful out of the bunch and all are still relevant today. Personally, the first channel I glommed onto was MySpace. Remember everyone’s first friend, Tom? Next up was Facebook, which launched in 2004 and has since racked up more than two billion users. The big buzz around Facebook in its early stages was that it was a social networking website that helped connect students, friends and family. People enjoyed writing on each other’s pages, sharing photos, updating their status and instant messaging. It was new and exciting, but it was not without privacy concerns.
As a fledgling two-year-old in 2006, Facebook had its first group of unhappy customers when it introduced the News Feed feature. Believe it or not, not everyone wanted their business plastered on a homepage for all to see. Some people valued their privacy. This sparked approximately one million users to join News Feed protest groups. Sound familiar? Ultimately, the groups were ignored and the News Feed feature has become one of Facebook’s most successful features.
The following year, the privacy controversy resurfaced, but this time as it related to advertising. If people thought having everyone see what they ate for breakfast on a News Feed was intrusive, then imagine how they felt when it was revealed that companies could track purchases made by Facebook users and tell their friends about those purchases without their consent. Are you starting to notice a trend?
Privacy concerns have been front and center for Facebook since its inception, however many haven’t taken direct action until recently – cue the #DeleteFacebook movement.
The #DeleteFacebook movement took flight after Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm hired by President Trump’s 2016 election campaign, gained access to private information of more than 50 million Facebook users. As a result, a handful of people allegedly deleted their accounts – celebrities among them – but with over two billion users, the small exodus had little effect. Reports claim that the movement’s backlash barely left a scratch on the company. Seems like another loss for Facebook protest groups, right? Not so fast.
While the #DeleteFacebook movement didn’t tear down the empire, it may have been more successful than some realize. It opened the eyes of more people who may have otherwise been blindly using the social networking site. It cast an international spotlight on data privacy, revealed more about how personal information is being used and monetized, and exposed privacy vulnerabilities.
With Facebook and other social networks here to stay, individuals and companies will need to remain informed about the increasing capabilities these technologies have in collecting, storing and sharing personal information. Data privacy is a major player on the world stage right now, and we all need to do some soul searching to figure out what these platforms mean to us.