One of Facebook’s many fixes for the Cambridge Analytics fallout is a commitment to helping its users discover and leverage tools to port their data to competing networks, should they wish. Or indeed, if the price is right.
Because in the future people could be paid for digital engagement, as distant as that seems now.
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Here’s a little known fact: Facebook users have been able to delete their accounts and download their entire history of posts, contacts and related content into a zip file for porting to an alternative network for yonks.
It just wasn’t terribly easy to do, and the Facebook never put much effort into marketing those capabilities, until now.
Now, of course, the entire world is alive to the vulnerability of personal data on global social platforms such as Facebook, and the #DeleteFacebook movement is arguably the best embodiment of post-Cambridge Analytics disclosure public anger.
Facebook has been going into public relations overdrive this week to reassure its users of its commitment to data privacy protection.
Facebook users are likely to start receiving a string of communications around the company’s new security measures – from the launch of an opt-in two-factor authentication process for those seeking to bolster their account’s security, to simpler processes for deleting individual posts, contacts or events from an account’s timeline.
Users will also be able to download their entire data footprint onto a zip file and port it to another platform, if that’s what they want to do. According to a recent Facebook news post, “It’s your data, after all”.
But to be clear, it always was, and this feature is not new – it just never received the same kind of airplay as other Facebook features and tool launches.
Back in 2010, Facebook first started talking about a ‘Download Your Information’ feature that provided just that, and there are dozens of third-party apps and portals out there that are able to perform that same task.
Even the regulators have caught up. From next month – in the EU, at least – new regulation will force all networks to provide users with simple, easy-to-follow tools and instructions to do just that.
The ‘right to data portability’ is a key ingredient of the EU’s wide-ranging General Data Protection Regulation, set to take effect May 25.
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Will it have much impact? It’s difficult to say.
There are few known facts about Facebook exodus volumes since the Cambridge Analytics disclosure, and not little research into the numbers of users who have made use of either one of Facebook’s own tools, or a third-party app, to create a download backup copy of their Facebook data history to date.
Several third-party studies seeking to ascertain the impact of the Cambridge Analytics scandal have indicated that Facebook users may now be more ‘concerned’ about data privacy than they used to do, but not all of them would consider leaving the platform as a result.
But here’s a thought – what if Facebook’s competitors started to offer users incentives to port their data from Facebook, across to their own networks?
It’s not at all a wacky idea.
Consumers everywhere are waking up to the idea that their personal data is a monetisable asset, and we may start to see the launch of new ‘deals’ in the social network market, to encourage users to grab their own piece of that monetisation action.
In other industries, porting incentives have been used for years, and leveraged aggressively for competitive leverage.
Energy suppliers frequently launch promotions encouraging consumers to switch suppliers.
Telco providers have long offered ‘switcher promos’ to reward users of other – and sometimes specific – networks to port their business, in exchange for benefits as tangible as device subsidies or a prepaid credit card.
In the digital world, several leading players have started investigating the potential of cryptocurrencies. It doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination to predict how a social network might start promoting digital currency bonuses for new registrations, or even platform loyalty, going forward.
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