By now, almost all of you know of massive Cambridge Analytic scandal, that Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) was accused of in the early months of the year. The blame was huge, and damages were severe on Facebook to an extent even Mark Zuckerberg had to testify himself in front of the Senate. Almost everyone was dead sure about the hefty penalty that could be levied on Facebook but apparently, the social media giant has gotten away with it without much pain. For the crime that moved the whole world, a fine of just $660,000 is levied on Facebook.
This is how U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) decided to punish this social media company for its grave offence, which was handling data in the Cambridge Analytica fiasco. As reports have it, this was the maximum amount of fine the ICO could levy, as per the current data protection laws prevalent in the country.
A humungous amount to pay for a hefty mistake, you might think! However, you need to rethink, because the amount is actually “huge” for individuals like us or mini-businesses and could be the entire of what we could ever earn, but for Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg, it is as meagre as pocket change.
If Not the Fine, Then What Is Disturbing Facebook?
However, seeing the current situations, it is not the fine that Facebook needs to worry about. Things could have taken a different turn if the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) had been in force then. Had the GDPR could have come into existence then, the fine could have cost Facebook almost 4% of its global turnover. Calculating it up, the amount would be over $1.8 billion.
But it isn’t all about money, and Facebook is losing something more than that – Its public perception. After all the events that have been cooking up – The analytic scandal, and then a Facebook bug – people have been thinking twice before considering Facebook as a secure option now. No wonder people across the world have rated Facebook as the most untrustworthy company for their personal and private information.
Zuckerberg knows very well of this, and that’s the reason Facebook is spending a lot on PR to win back lost credibility. It is holding press conferences, telling the newspaper and TV ads that all the issues have been removed, and it’s the same old Facebook people used to trust. It is promising people that it’s changing, not to mention the actual changes to its business practices.
In the words of the data protection lawyer Eduardo Ustaran, the real after-effect of defying the law in such situations is that one has to transform its business model totally after such accuses. The fact that ICO has levied the maximum fine till date for this crime, speaks a lot about the graveness of the act. What it really wants to convey is that this offence is not that much about security, as it is about other principles of the law, namely fairness and transparency.
Will Facebook Really Change?
Now the biggest question in everybody’s mind is – “After all the blames, will Facebook become more transparent and act more protective towards its users’ privacy?”
Towards the end of March 2018, Facebook launched a new range of privacy tools, also limiting the data brokers like Acxiom and Epsilon from targeting advertisements to its users. Facebook also cut off its ties with Cambridge Analytica, the same firm which acquired data of more than 87 million Facebook users in the year 2013.
However, not all people see it as a positive move. Maby users believe that even after all the changes, it would just become a restrictive platform, where the third-party data vendors no longer can participate in the targeting. This could be another strategy to consolidate its power over the information.
“No one would be able to compete with Facebook as it would become the universe’s database of record,” says Chris Wylie, the Cambridge Analytica leaker.
As of now, it seems that Facebook has finally balanced the two most important things – improving privacy and at the same time not being overly restrictive, not forgetting to ensure that the ad revenues suffer no hurdle and continue to grow.
Despite all hullabaloo the company’s stock is touching new heights – it inflated above $200 per share for the first time this month. Its a great recovery after the company witnessed a sudden drop in its share value in March this year resulting in over $100 billion being wiped out from its market capitalization.
Facebook sure knows how to overcome its past, right? It would be interesting to see how it erases the scandal of its users’ minds and ensures that trust prevails again!