Betrayed by online data breach

  • Focus
  • Friday, 06 Apr 2018

It says a lot that Zuckerberg, the founder of a social network, has chosen to use traditional media to issue his apology.

IT IS ironic that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg turned to traditional media to get his message across. 

This followed allegations by a whistle blower that British consultancy Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed users’ information to build profiles on American voters that were later used to help elect US President Donald Trump in 2016.

To issue his apology over the matter, Zuckerberg chose print instead of social media.

Last week, he took full-page advertisements in seven British newspapers and three American ones to apologise for the ongoing controversy that has engulfed the social network in a legal and regulatory nightmare.

The apology, reportedly penned by Zuckerberg himself, attempted to clarify the situation by reiterating that Facebook had already stopped third-party apps from “getting so much information” and has started “limiting the data apps when you sign up”.

However, the damage had been done and many Facebook users have lost faith after what seems like a breach of trust.

This has been the hottest topic among city folk in Kuala Lumpur over the past one week.

As a Facebook user in Malaysia, I am upset more so following reports that Cambridge Analytica used our data in Kedah for the 2013 general election.

In my opinion, Zuckerberg’s apology came too late and only after pressure from media attacks.

Facebook knew that Cambridge Analytica created the quiz app in 2013. It took him five years to publicly acknowledge and apologise for it.

Instead of saying “what happened” Zuckerberg should have said “what are you doing”. In a crisis, it’s crucial to demonstrate action.

Taking legal action against Cambridge parent SCL Group for invading users’ privacy would have proven that Zuckerberg was serious in his fight against breach of private data.

On a positive note, he acknowledged that “there is more to do”.

However, we as Facebook users still feel betrayed and are questioning how Zuckerberg allowed app developers to access private data without the individuals’ authorisation.

This incident has already resulted in serious backlash against the social media company.

Last Friday, electric car maker Tesla Inc and its rocket company Space X’s Facebook pages, each with more than 2.6 million followers, were deleted after its chief executive Elon Musk promised to do so.

This followed New York Times’ report that Facebook was also guilty of using its users’ private data.

The front-page story on March 27 noted: “Facebook itself has worked directly with presidential campaigns on ad targeting, describing its services in a company case study as influencing voters”.

“People are upset that their data may have been used to secretly influence 2016 voters,” said Alessandro Acquisti, a professor of information technology and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University.

Looking ahead, is there another option for something similar to Facebook, without the risk of exposing privacy data?

What will the future trend be, as people and companies are choosing to delete their Facebook accounts?

My teh tarik pals aren’t quite ready to give up on social media but in the era of fake news, they do admit, perhaps grudgingly, that newspapers still matter.

Facebook is not alone as many other tech giants such as Google and Amazon are also being closely monitored where use of private data is concerned.

The Internet business model is under siege from users, regulators and lawmaker as the harvesting of data to influence voters has opened a big Pandora’s box.

The debate on privacy data continues.


M. Krishnamoorthy is a veteran journalist and associate professor at an international university in Malaysia. He is also a crisis communications trainer, media coach and author of MH 370: Flying Through Crisis, Lessons in Crisis Communications.

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