In the wake of the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal, several opinion pieces suggested that Facebook users “get what they paid for.” But last week news emerged that Facebook’s stock-market valuation had fallen by almost £120 billion ($156 billion) — and in the European Union it has lost three million users.
Data scandals come and go, and unfortunately we will probably see more over the course of 2018, and although the column inches used to report these breaches may reduce significantly over time, the recent Facebook fall in value shows that the public still has an appetite for privacy, regardless of what media commentators may say.
I hope that businesses across technology, marketing and advertising are paying attention to this, because there is a chance we will see more high-profile breaches in the future. According to new data, two-thirds of managers in advertising and marketing consider consumer data collected by their organization to be owned by the company rather than the source of the data — the consumer.
This is not merely ethically ambiguous; in some markets, like the EU where the GDPR has come into force, the law is built so the individual remains the owner of their data. What’s more, 67% of respondents in the United States agreed that businesses share data too freely with external third parties.
This data indicates we are potentially at the tip of the iceberg, and it is extremely concerning for those who work in the data and insight industries, as well as data protection officers across the land. The Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal was big news when it broke, mainly due to its impact on two major democratic processes on both sides of the pond.
But last month a class-action lawsuit against Disney, which allegedly harvested the data of children without consent, was expanded to include complaints against Twitter and comScore, a media measurement and research company. This has largely gone unreported in mainstream media, although it was featured in MediaPost last month.
What’s vital for businesses to understand is that there is a price to be paid for non-ethical, non-transparent, and illegal data collection. And that price is not only bad PR. You would be naïve to think that legislators across the globe are missing class-action lawsuits, such as the one that Disney is currently fighting.
One of the reasons Facebook lost three million EU users was said to be due to the new GDPR regulations, and if companies continue to betray the trust of consumers around the world, you can expect these regulations to get tighter in the EU and also in the United States. In fact, a GDPR-inspired Right to Privacy Act has just been adopted in California.
Consumer and customer data is vital to the modern business. In our research, 93% of managers in the United States agreed that collecting data is important to the growth of their business. But in order to continue to have the freedom to use consumer data, all companies need to be more responsible with how they collect and manage it.
The first step in being more responsible and understanding this area, is engage with your local data associations, sign up to codes of conduct and commit to accountability — this will improve trust for consumers and clients, and also provide guidelines for you to follow, as well as ensuring your voice is heard by lawmakers when it comes to further potential legislation. Because If we can’t be trusted with nice things, they will be taken away from us.