You may have heard about Facebook ‘s shady business practices and malicious data handling in the news cycle recently. Facebook is an integral part of everyone’s life whether we want to admit or not; it’s on almost every company’s commercials (“make sure to add us on Facebook”)—discussed by friends & family and used by government agencies. Naturally, we are all asking the same question—what does the news mean for Facebook’s future?
Facebook’s future includes a sullied reputation. In 2015, a UK consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica (CA), bought an Academic License from Facebook to gain user information and data to be used for psychological research. CA then created a Facebook application called “thisisyourdigitallife” to study the behavior of users, which lead to some severe privacy issues.
The app was downloaded by more than 270,000 users, but by agreeing to the app’s terms and conditions the user also agreed to a collection of their friends data, bringing more than 50 million additional users. This data was then sold to research firms and political campaigns. It became a hot button issue when news broke that the users data was used in the 2016 presidential elections. After that, the data was handled by advertising firms with the aim of creating “psychological” ads to influence voting and purchasing habits. Facebook had knowledge of this act going on, which is why both companies are under fire.
The silver lining to the situation is that now public attention has zeroed in on how Facebook and similar business models profit from their users. Users have voluntarily allowed their data to be mined. Upon hearing how their data was used in 2015 by Cambridge Analytica, consumers began a discussion on the matter of data security.
The discussion won’t bring an end to Facebook though. Facebook currently has a market capitalization of $465.9 billion; they will not be going away anytime soon. In the short term future, they will be hit with a massive fine from the Federal Trade Commission for “consent decree,”which means enabling third party access to user information without their permission.
The truth is, Facebook has so much data on its 1.2 billion daily users that it can continue to fund operations by selling this information to advertisers. Not to mention, the acquisition of Instagram a while back, which sealed Facebook’s fate as one of the world’s top technology companies for a very long time.