Facebook has become even more of a discussion topic than usual this week after news broke that Cambridge Analytica, a data firm connected to President Donald Trump’s campaign to assist in data operations, accessed information from roughly 50 million Facebook users without permission.
Cambridge Analytica achieved access to user data through an app used as a research tool that was essentially a personality quiz. What users didn’t know was when they took the quiz, it allowed the company access to their friend’s profiles too. Cambridge Analytica has since been stripped of rights to use Facebook’s platform, but a spokesperson from the company denied there was any violation of the site’s terms of agreement.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg has also been under scrutiny, as it has been determined that Facebook could have been a device used to influence voters during the presidential election. This became especially apparent after the recent discoveries of Russia’s influence on the election process. Zuckerberg expressed initial skepticism to this claim and said the company will work to make Facebook more transparent to its users.
“I started Facebook, and at the end of the day I’m responsible for what happens on our platform,” said Zuckerberg. “We will learn from this experience to secure our platform further and make our community safer for everyone going forward.”
Though this isn’t a new thing, it is being brought into light that Facebook’s business model is based on selling user data to app developers and advertisers. According to CNN Money, last year Facebook made 98 percent of its revenue on advertising, which equates to 39.9 billion dollars. This is one of the reasons why users see ads tailored to them when they use Facebook– it’s not just a coincidence.
Zuckerberg is now being called on to testify on behalf of his company’s actions, with many states opening investigations into the data scandal.
“The recent revelations about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica raise serious questions about the extent to which the social media giant respected user privacy and whether it violated its consent decree with the FTC,” said Sen. Ed Markey in a statement. The Maryland Democrat said, “Facebook and Cambridge Analytica should be made to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee so that we can get to the bottom of these disturbing reports that may impact tens of millions of Americans.”
Analysts believe tougher regulation for social media will be seen in the future, especially following an incident like this. Zuckerberg agreed that Facebook would be open to regulations.
“I actually am not sure we shouldn’t be regulated. I think in general, technology is an increasingly important trend in the world and I actually think the question is more, what is the right regulation, rather than ‘yes or no, should it be regulated?'” said Zuckerberg to CNN. “If you look at how much regulation there is around advertising on TV and print, it’s just not clear why there should be less on the internet. We should have the same level of transparency required.”
Following the data scandal, Facebook stock had its biggest one day drop since March 2014; how Facebook handles damage control might ultimately determine the long-term future of the company.