I’ve met Zuckerberg; I’ve known him in the beginning when he started Facebook. When they launched the platform, F8, we knew that data was going to be available to the apps and that you could grab friends’ of friends information to be able to play games. Zuckerberg told me he didn’t anticipate the kinds of things that developers like us would be able to do using the data.
Cambridge Analytica got access to 50 million users– we had four times that. In the last ten years, we’ve spent a billion dollars with Facebook across all the different advertisers, so we know the kind of data that’s available. A lot of people are looking at this as some kind of big data breach, but it isn’t. It’s one guy who had an app that shared that data with Cambridge, and there’s nothing that Cambridge could have done with that because, to be an engineer, Facebook changed everything over to the graph API version 2, which means only app-signed IDs are able to use data for targeting. There’s no way they could have used it.
The violation occurred not when data was collected by professors for academic purposes, but when Facebook shared the data with Cambridge. However, that still doesn’t actually put any of us in jeopardy. It’s not like anyone broke into Facebook.
I think Zuckerberg should testify in front of Congress. He’s got nothing to lose. I think he’ll say the right things. I think people will see that his heart shows through; he’s not about the money. He truly does care about protecting the users.
Obviously, investors aren’t happy with this whole ordeal. Collectively, they’ve lost billions of dollars. The only way Facebook can attempt to amend this is to educate. They’ve got to educate the public around what’s possible with your data and what fake news is. They have to educate advertisers and marketers on how to use Facebook as a platform to drive sales and to be able to entertain instead of just selling outright. It’s ultimately an education plane. It’s not a technology or data plane.
Zuckerberg plans on fixing this by restricting the amount of data that’s available to apps and advertisers. For example, he’s pulled back a lot of the targeting on workplace and job title.
Will this help? Well, that’s a matter of perception, as are all the things that have happened these past couple of months. The real power of Facebook is in things like custom audiences, and their algorithm automatically optimizing for who should see something. The reason why things like fake news take off is because the algorithm is trying to seek what’s going to get the highest engagement.
So, if you see a piece of fake news, and you don’t know whether a celebrity actually died or not, and you share it, and your friends share it, how is the algorithm supposed to tell you? It’s ultimately a user issue, not a platform issue. Bottom line: They’ve got to educate users.
About the Author
You can find him quoted in major publications and on television such as CNN, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, NPR, and LA Times. Clients have included Nike, Red Bull, the Golden State Warriors, Ashley Furniture, Quiznos-- down to local service businesses like real estate agents and dentists. He's spoken at over 750 conferences in 20 countries, having flown over 6 million miles in the last 30 years to train up young adults and business owners. He speaks for free as long as the organization believes in the job-creation mission and covers business class travel.
You can find him hiking tall mountains, eating chicken wings, and taking Kaqun oxygen baths-- likely in a city near you.