We’ve all seen reaction to the disclosures of what Cambridge Analytica did with Facebook user data. We all probably have opinions about who’s to blame, what should or shouldn’t happen next, and what the consequences will be for the online ad industry.
I don’t think I have a better-formed point of view on the issue than anyone else — but I do believe there are some pretty safe bets on what the most likely consequences will be. Here’s what I think will happen:
Not going away anytime soon. This issue won’t only be front and center for the month of March, or the first half of 2018. This one has real staying power. We are going to see new investigations, congressional hearings, state attorney general inquires and civil lawsuits launching on this issue weekly for the rest of the year. This issue is going to have real legs.
Lots of finger-pointing. The blame game has only just started. We’re going to see more players in or close to the data-scraping and usage arena pointing more fingers at many other people. Everyone will blame everyone else -- and almost no one will accept true responsibility and seek true forgiveness.
Users will be the real losers. The people who lost the most here were those whose data was taken and used in ways they did not anticipate, and for which they received little to no value. As much as regulators and legislators say they will take up the consumer’s cause, users will be left largely on the sidelines. They’re not likely to end up with dramatically more transparency and control over their social media data when this is all over.
Walled-garden moats will get deeper and wider. Without question, we are going to see a tightening of restrictions on the capture, use and sharing of user data on digital platforms. Already Facebook has begun to restrict the use of third-party data. This will significantly increase the cost of companies operating in this space and will give significant advantage to large incumbents, since they already have a lot of data and a lot of existing user relationships. It will be very hard for new companies to enter their markets. As has been known for centuries, regulations largely benefit market incumbents, not users or new market entrants.
I think it’s very healthy that we’re having conversations about this issue. Unfortunately, I’m not very optimistic that we’re really going to like where everything comes out.
What do you think?