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December 23, 2018

Facebook users stay amid privacy scandals, but it’s time for the company to clean up its act

By GlobalData Technology

It’s been a remarkably bad year for Facebook. Once a media darling, the social media company is now the scourge of every news article about its continual string of privacy debacles.

The latest: A New York Times investigation examined more than 150 agreements Facebook forged with partners such as Apple, Netflix, Spotify and Amazon to allow them access to users’ names, contact information and private messages.

This newest revelation only throws more gasoline on a fire that is simmering with regulators calling for greater privacy protections and even a break-up of the social media giant. Facebook’s stock has fallen about 24% during 2018, but one thing that has not happened is a mass exodus of users.

Despite perceptions, Facebook users are sticking around

New user growth may have slowed each quarter, but Facebook’s financials don’t reflect a decline in users. While some surveys indicate users have deleted their Facebook accounts, most point to the fact that the majority of users continue to interact with the platform in 2018 just as much as they did the previous year.

For Facebook’s 2.2 billion users, it has never been a secret that their posts and photos are not private, and users don’t post their private medical or banking information on Facebook. So when a breach occurs, it’s not as alarming as say someone hacking Wells Fargo.

Moreover, Facebook is entrenched in the lives of many people, especially those who are part of affinity groups. It’s simply hard to take a break from the connections that people see as vital.

These two trends play into Facebook’s favor because as long as users stay, so will advertisers.

Still, privacy and security are not issues that Facebook can ignore as the negative news mounts. Trust erodes.

That’s why the company is investing heavily in security at the expense of its profits. It also needs to make some moves that give regulators and its investors and users a level of comfort around privacy.

Facebook could start by finding some well-respected third parties to audit the company and give it some additional oversight. CEO and Chairman Mark Zuckerberg, who has the majority voting power in the company, needs to demonstrate some transparency.

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