From the Blog

FTC versus Facebook – OpEd

The $5 BILLION DOLLAR settlement between the FTC and Facebook is the largest fine in history. In addition to the rather large fine, Facebook will be required to submit to significant federal oversight of its business practices for the next 20 years. 

People remain divided on whether or not it’s a fair ‘punishment’ for Facebook’s privacy violations and wonder if the right precedent has been set for the future of privacy and data sharing in the US. 

The big questions on our minds are:

  • Will people care? 
  • Will they leave Facebook? 
  • Will they turn to Instagram and What’sApp without understanding that they are part of Facebook?

At the heart of the matter is the manner in which Facebook, and third-party apps, used access to 87 million users’ names, personal details like friends and phone numbers, and on-site behaviors such as ‘likes’. 

At StraTac, we form business guidance around cognitive psychology and different psychological and motivational theories; such as those of Maslow. A quick reminder on what that is:

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A large part of what we do at StraTac is helping our clients build trust in their product and their brand.Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs tells us that outside of fulfilling our physiological needs, the first need that businesses can fulfill for customers is the assurance of safety. 

Businesses often ignore, disrespect, or take advantage of their customers without even realizing that they are doing so. It’s crucial to your survival as a business that you not only treat your customers well but nurture the relationships with them. 

Don’t just blast your message out to your customer; engage them and make them feel valued and safe. Customers want to believe that your company is a safe choice for providing them with goods and services.

Social Belonging

According to Maslow, Social Belonging is the second thing we need as humans. We have to wonder whether Safety or Social Belonging will rule the day when it comes to Facebook. Are millennials willing to give up their data and their privacy for convenience and social sharing? Parents have expressed concerns about this ever since MySpace came into being. 

That said, there is an older generation who is also very invested in Facebook as a way to keep in touch. Many of them believe that their privacy is long gone and this brouhaha is insignificant aside from the $5 Billion dollars the government will collect. Of course, Facebook was finding ways to monetize the platform… but they only have the data you give them (or did they really use listening…). 

This generation of consumers had already experienced a massive loss of privacy when the Chinese government hacked into the US Office of Personnel Management Database gaining access to the extremely sensitive records of 21.5M people, and Credit Score Companies Experian and later Equifax exposed the financial data of 15M and 143M people respectively. Consumers of this generation don’t find the loss of Facebook ‘likes’ and phone numbers to be quite so horrifying. Perhaps, they simply have no illusion of data privacy remaining and have become inured to the loss. 

Is the assurance of safety an issue that Facebook has to contend with, and if so, can the social media giant recover? 

Statistically speaking, worldwide, there were over 2.38 billion Facebook monthly active users in March 2019, an 8% increase from the previous year. (Source: Facebook 4/24/19). Over a billion and a half users log in each day. We will be watching to see what the next quarter’s data indicates.

Anecdotally speaking, the Face Aging App purportedly created by Russians with nefarious intent, is still wildly popular with people posting their ‘old face’ and commenting ‘my privacy is already gone’. 

It will be interesting to see how this all relates to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – the EU’s law on data protection and privacy. The GDPR primarily aims to give control to individuals over their personal data and to simplify the regulatory environment for international business by unifying the regulation within the EU. Will the US follow suit and enact strong privacy laws?

It will be interesting to see how this theory stands up against how users will choose to participate or leave the platform as a result of their basic and psychological needs being manipulated.