For perspective, my columns each month are about 750 words, or 18 percent of the length of Facebook’s new policy. Like you, I usually just click “accept” on policy statements for things I participate in online, apps I download to my phone and software I purchase. I don’t typically read these overly complicated, vague legal documents. And Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was quick to point out, in front of Congress and the world last month, that more than 2.1 billion of us agreed to their terms.
Why was Zuckerberg asked to appear before Congress? To fully explain, it would take more than 750 words. But here are some highlights of what happened to 87 million Facebook users and how this impacts you and your business:
- A U.K.-based political consulting company, Cambridge Analytica, collected data about Facebook users for years. Whistleblowers claim that this personal data was used to psychologically profile voters in order to target politically motivated content on Facebook newsfeeds. It’s theorized that this may have impacted the last U.S. presidential election, but there is no way to really know for sure. The main issue is that once Facebook fully understood what was happening here, and likely elsewhere as well, they chose not to inform their users of how their data was being used.
- The things that you, as a typical Facebook user, “Like,” share and comment on are, by default, available to anyone who wants to see it, including computers and software that harvest this information off your page. What companies do you follow? What issues do you support? What political candidates do you follow? What is your religion, sexual orientation, relationship status? What hobbies do you like? What movies do you watch? What music do you listen to? Anything you share on Facebook is right there for the world to see and use because you, me and more than 2 billion others clicked on “accept” on the Facebook policy statement.
- Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of Congress and fielded questions last month. He commented that Facebook’s mission is to “better connect the world.” He agreed that Facebook could have done more to protect individuals’ rights to privacy. He assured us all that Facebook will be doing more to investigate the tens of thousands of apps on Facebook for suspicious activity. During his testimony, it appeared that his answers were resonating with investors as Facebook’s stock price went up nearly 4.5 percent.
- At present, nothing that happened appears to be against the law. It’s just a bitter pill to swallow when we consider that information we share or allow to be pulled from our photos, calendars, address books, etc., when we sign up for these services can be used to target specific ads and messages to us. You may not care, and I tend to feel that way myself to an extent. But if you do, you can reject the policy and not participate if you like, or simply adjust your own security settings to protect yourself. Ultimately, we should all be responsible for ourselves and our decisions to be influenced – or not – by targeted messages we get from Facebook or any other source.
What Can You Do?
- Protect your password and make it hard to crack.
- Get alerts when your account is being logged into from new or different devices. Go to “Settings” in Facebook, then click on “Security and Login,” scroll down to “Login” and enable notification of unrecognized logins.
- Manage your personal privacy, go to “Settings,” then “Privacy.” The default is for anyone and everyone to be able to see your data. Change those settings as you see fit.
Facebook Business Pages
For business Facebook pages, the whole idea is to make your business information available to the world. It’s how you get found, how people can leave reviews for you, and how you get your brand in front of as many people as you can. There is no limit as to who can find your page and “Like” it. That’s an opportunity, not a problem.
Facebook isn’t going anywhere. Some people have closed their Facebook accounts, but it’s a drop in the bucket when you consider more than 2 billion people use it. Update your security settings and continue on as usual with your business Facebook page. Your brand awareness in your marketplace will be better for it when you participate effectively there.