Facebook: it’s “well beyond time” for regulators to act writes UKFast boss

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UKFast’s CEO, Lawrence Jones, believes it’s now “well beyond time” for regulators to act “decisively” on data misuse and fake news.

It comes after Facebook boss, Mark Zuckerberg admitted to CNN that the social network had “made mistakes”, which meant that millions of Facebook users had their data exploited.

Zuckerberg added that he was “really sorry” for the “breach of trust” and would make it harder for apps to harvest user information.

In the UK, the advertising body, ISBA is set to meet Facebook later this week to put pressure on the firm to make changes.

Writes Jones:

Thousands of businesses target their content on Facebook and similar platforms using data profiling. It’s a relationship that works for businesses and consumers, and most people understand that when you sign up to these platforms you’re agreeing to hand over a certain amount of information about yourself to third parties.

It’s when an organisation takes advantage of our data, using it without permission and then manipulating it to deliver extremely emotive ‘fake news’ to millions of people that it crosses an ethical line.

Facebook has a responsibility to its users to ensure that organisations using this data don’t overstep the line. In my mind, they are duty bound to act if that data ends up with third parties who don’t have permission or if that data is used to target people with fake news, especially if it’s being shared across their platform.

Facebook dropped the ball in how they went about monitoring third-party use of data and have been incredibly slow in generating a response.

We humans are emotional by our very nature and in a democracy how is it that companies are allowed to influence and play on people’s emotions with fake or unregulated content? When this content is combined with extremely intelligent profiling and targeting techniques it’s a recipe for potential miscarriages of democracy. 

Traditional news channels are subject to certain rules. They have more requirements to verify their sources and provide balance, but social media is becoming the new Wild West, where people are able to do what they please. I think it’s well beyond time for regulation on this type of activity.

This won’t be the end of Facebook but it’s certainly going to change the way people think about the issue of data privacy, and I think that can only be a positive going forward.

I think what’s shocked a lot of people about this incident is the sheer lack of concern about this data abuse and the lack of action in recovering it from Cambridge Analytica, until it became clear that they had a PR catastrophe on their hands.

It took five days following the blowing of the whistle for Mark Zuckerberg to say a word on this story! That period of silence could be hugely damaging for his business.

Facebook may have been created with the best intentions, but there are always people who are ready to take advantage of a situation. Platforms have a responsibility to their user base who trust them to protect that data.     

To regain trust, and recover their share price, Facebook have to now carry through on the promise of Mark Zuckerberg to investigate every Facebook app that’s mining data and ask questions about where that data is, who has access to it and what it’s being used for. They then need to be extremely clear and transparent about the findings of their investigation.

This is now about damage limitation for them, and the only way they can limit damage is by being honest about their mistakes and regaining our trust.  

Lawrence Jones is CEO of Manchester-based UKFast.