For many months now, Facebook has been wrestling with concerns from its subscribers, legislators, consumer and privacy advocates the world over that it was too invasive, too lax, too carefree with the vast troves of personal data committed to its servers, and was far too complicit in passing that information to third-party users and app developers. The manner in which personal data has been harvested, abused, misused and simply taken advantage of has broken the trust that many have in social media and in the platform itself.
Simply put, the behemoth that is Facebook took its more than two billion customers for granted, was too interested in harvesting and commercialising their data, too concentrated on increasing its share value, too consumed with profit than in curbing those who would abuse the platform to fester hatred.
Mark Zuckerberg, the wunderkind founder of Facebook and now its chief executive officer, has appeared before legislative committees on both sides of the Atlantic but offered little to ease the concerns of those concerned with the abuse of information and misuse of data on the platform. The corporate reach and profit levels at Facebook have allowed it too to expand and acquire new apps, services and technologies. Here too the social media platform was seen playing fast and loose with user data.
Zuckerburg has now announced that Facebook would shift from public-focused strategies to that of the privately focused. His musings have been naturally met with more than an element of disdain and disbelief, given its history and track record in profiting from the sharing of data and information.
Zuckerburg envisages a new app that will cover off WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram into a single, more private service and he is promising that the new messenger service will be more secure, more private and the messages will delete automatically after a given length of time. Certainly, from his perspective, sitting at the head of a social media empire that touches the daily lives of more than two billion users around the world, it’s an attractive proposition.
For the perspective of users of social media, the last thing that’s needed now — particularly with Facebook’s very questionable abuse of the data it already has — is a super-private service controlled by the platform’s servers and analytics.
On face value, it’s a good idea. Given Facebook’s values, it’s a bad idea. Realistically, the time is fast coming when Zuckerberg’s communications cartel should split.