I continue to find it fascinating that the company that develops the tool that so many brands, individuals and even public entities rely on to build and nurture their communities, neglected to foster its own. Facebook has no friends. We use it, we run our ads on it, we publish our news on it. But we don’t like it.
Which is why, now in its moment of need, Facebook is more or less twisting in the wind. Other publishers, other platforms have committed similar offenses. But in the court of public opinion, Facebook will pay for the crime.
Contrast this to Apple which as a company is equally as arrogant. I say this typing on one of my 5 Apple devices so know that I have drink the Macintosh-flavored Koolaid deep. Apple however always — well before social media — understood the value of community and built its marketing strategy from the get-go around cultivating evangelists. We love the brand. So much so that we forgive an awful lot. Lousy overpriced computers in the late 90s. Batteries that drain far too fast. And we pay a premium to use the thing we love.
It has always been true that if you are not paying, you’re the product.
We now are starting to understand the true cost of using Facebook.
This is the opportunity for a viable replacement to make its move, something that a year ago, I would have said was foolhardy. And no, I am not predicting the fall of Facebook. That is ridiculous. But it is vulnerable.
Reddit, long mostly off limits to commercialization, has recently relaxed its stance about corporate conversation on the platform. Ditto Pinterest, which has extended the hand of friendship to publishers of late. Snapchat, still not dead even though Ms. Jenner claims to no longer use the service. There is a little more room at the inn right now for smart players that figure out how to reconcile the competing demands of commercial results and consumer privacy.
We are finally, after 20 years, at a point where consumer data privacy in the US matters. To everyone, not just a handful of folks. We’ve also realized, I think, that even though regulation may stifle innovation, the cost of not protecting privacy through regulation is too steep. I personally wish we could rely on tech companies to police themselves and protect their consumers. Cambridge Analytica, and all the other extant examples for which the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica mess also serves as proxy, proves that we cannot.
In Europe, privacy is considered a fundamental human right. Its data privacy law, the General Data Protection Regulations, codify consumers’ ownership of their personal data as well as the obligations companies that use or control consumer data have to that consumer.
Our attitude toward privacy in the US is a little different. It is largely viewed in terms of individual rights vis a vis governmental authority. It is not a fundamental right, and our privacy laws such as they are, reflect that.
Nevertheless online data regulation in the US now seems inevitable. Senators Markey and Blumenthal have already drafted a bill, and these are smart guys who have been around the online privacy debate for years. Markey in particular. They know the dangers of over-regulating technology.