Could we see the end of Facebook in 2018? Just a few months ago, it seemed impossible that the social media giant could be shaken from its place at the top of the internet. However, a major data sharing scandal that saw millions of users have their personal data stolen – and used for political purposes – #RIPFacebook? could be the undoing of the popular social platform.
Obviously we’re exaggerating a little – Facebook isn’t closing down any time soon. But it hasn’t exactly been the best year so far for Mark Zuckerberg and co.
Why is Facebook in trouble?
Facebook stands accused of sharing users’ personal information with political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, who in turn are accused of using stolen data to illegally influence elections and other key political votes. Cambridge Analytica has been linked to election results in Sri Lanka, in Brazil and in the US – including the election of Donald Trump – as well as the UK’s highly controversial Brexit referendum result.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has apologised to users for the social media network’s part in the data scandal. He told reporters that his company “didn’t focus enough on preventing abuse,” and that “clearly [Facebook] should have done more.”
However, it may be too little, too late, as the backlash builds against the social platform. In the wake of the scandal, #DeleteFacebook was trending across other social media platforms. Between March 16th and March 19th, when Channel 4 News broadcast their exposé on Cambridge Analytica and Facebook, the FB share price fell from 185.09 to 168.12; by March 22 it had plummeted to 152.22 per unit.
How many Facebook users are affected by the data sharing scandal?
The Facebook data scandal has been revealed to involve the accounts of around 87 million users – far more than the 270,000 first reported by the social giant, and more than double the recent estimate of 30 million. Of these 87 million users, 1.1 million are from the UK and a further 2.7 million are EU citizens.
The 270,000 people who agreed to share their data – those who signed up for the app and gave their consent for some information to be shared – unwittingly exposed the data of all of their contacts. This huge data set of personal details has since been sold on and used by third parties, especially for political means. The scandal is an international one, with users all across the world affected, and many nations are now investigating the extent the stolen data played in general election and referendum results.
What does this mean for Facebook?
Though the scandal has been a shock to the company and has caused serious damage to its reputation and its value, it seems unlikely that we will see the back of Facebook any time soon. It still dominates the other social platforms, even with the recent wave of deleted accounts.
However, we should expect to see people turning against data harvesting apps that require a Facebook log-in, and we would certainly hope to see social media users taking greater care over the privacy of themselves and others.
Facebook will certainly need to improve its own data-sharing standards if it wants to regain trust from its users – and there may well be further hardship ahead for the company, if similar data sharing scandals are revealed.