Mark Zuckerberg started 2018 with a renewed commitment to bringing people closer together, prioritizing more meaningful interaction, and ensuring time users spend on Facebook was well spent.
However, as 2018 unfolded with one scandal or setback after another, it became Facebook’s biggest annus horribilis—the single worst year in the company’s history. The world’s top social network found itself at the center of global storms over a wide variety of major issues such as data breaches, election interference, congressional testimonies, security breaches, fake news, lawsuits, fines, threats of antitrust cases, and possible government regulation.
Yet, despite the repeated claims that it would do better when it came to security, the company ended 2018 explaining why it was sharing information about users’ friends and families with dozens of companies without users’ consent.
“For years, Facebook gave some of the world’s largest technology companies more intrusive access to users’ personal data than it has disclosed, effectively exempting those business partners from its usual privacy rules, according to internal records and interviews,” the New York Times reported in December.
Facebook loses the public’s trust
Research shows that, out of the major tech companies, people trust Facebook the least with their personal information. Five times more people place Facebook as the least trustworthy company to handle their personal information when compared to Amazon and Twitter, according to this chartcompiled by Statista.
Only 28 percent of the Facebook users surveyed after CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony (April 2018) believe the company is committed to privacy, down from a high of 79 percent in 2017, according to a survey by the Ponemon Institute and NBC News.
Of course, as trust in Facebook hits an all-time low, the company’s overall reputation has been impacted severely. Looking at the public reputation of the 100 most visible U.S. companies, Facebook is currently a dismal No. 94, according to a Harris Poll survey in partnership with Axios.]
Use of personal data becomes mainstream - it’s a good thing!
Yet, one positive outcome of 2018 was personal data became a mainstream topic of conversation among the general public. Consumers are becoming much more educated about tech companies’ terms of service, privacy policies and their respective country’s personal data laws.
People are starting to really wake up to the fact that major tech companies have been tracking, storing, utilizing and—in some cases—selling or sharing their data to advertisers.
Understanding Zuckerberg’s new privacy-focused social foundation of the future
Due to all of the above, we now know that Zuckerberg had been working hard behind the scenes for some time to come up with a turnaround strategy for Facebook and its family of apps and services, that includes Instagram and WhatsApp.
In March, Zuckerberg published a 3,200-word privacy manifesto as a note on his Facebook personal profile. Zuckerberg details his vision for this new privacy-focused foundation with these six pillars:
1. Private interactions: Facebook is shifting the focus to its messaging apps with Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram Direct. Zuckerberg has commented previously on the fact that people feel safer and more confident to share when they know their conversations are private.
2. Encryption: Currently, Facebook-owned WhatsApp is fully end-to-end encrypted, meaning that messages cannot be read even by WhatsApp/Facebook. Facebook now has a goal to bring this same level of encryption to Messenger and Instagram Direct to provide more security to its services.
3. Reducing Permanence: Facebook has also found that people feel more comfortable being themselves and sharing more openly when they know their content won’t ‘stick around.’
4. Safety: Zuckerberg states that “People should expect that we will do everything we can to keep them safe on our services within the limits of what's possible in an encrypted service.”
5. Interoperability: Zuckerberg confirmed on the Q4 earnings call on January 30, 2019, that Facebook plans to merge the underlying infrastructure of its three messaging apps/products (Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram Direct). This will make it easier for users and businesses to communicate seamlessly through the messaging app of their choice.
6. Secure data storage: Finally, Zuckerberg wanted to drive home the point that Facebook will not be storing sensitive data in countries with weak records on human rights like privacy and freedom of expression in order to protect data from being improperly accessed.
Thoughts on encryption
Regarding No. 2, I have long been a proponent of full end-to-end encryption. However, I’ve come to understand counter-opinions and realize that encryption can also spawn its troubles.
It’s one thing to have third parties or governments unable to read our messages. But, if even Facebook cannot read messages on its own services (either via humans or artificial intelligence), this can potentially wreak havoc because horrible things can be happening behind the scenes without anyone knowing. In fact, this was apparently one of the main areas where recently departed Chief Product Officer, Chris Cox, disagreed with Zuckerberg.
More on ephemerality
Regarding No. 3 , ephemerality – the concept of content lasting only briefly – is already inherent in the Stories product across Instagram and Facebook. This simply means that all Stories disappear after 24 hours unless the content owner/publisher chooses to showcase Stories in their archives.
Now, Zuckerberg plans to introduce a level of ephemerality to other areas, such as disappearing private messages and expiration dates on public content, if you choose. (Expiration dates are currently already available for Facebook business pages owners and comes in handy if, say, you have news, updates or offers that are no longer relevant after a certain date.)
What small business owners should focus on now
At the end of the day, I firmly believe the six pillars detailed in Zuckerberg’s privacy manifesto are a giant leap forward for Facebook, its family of apps and services, and its combined 2.7 billion active users.
The bottom line is that this new “privacy-focused social foundation for the future” is a major pivot point for Facebook and a major pivot point for marketers and small business owners.
Keep publishing your compelling video content, create niche groups where your community can create meaningful connections with you, and be sure to integrate a Messenger chatbot for your Facebook business page.
And, as I told the 5,000 attendees at Social Media Marketing World 2019 in my opening keynote, pay attention to what Facebook deemphasizes and what the company prioritizes. We have to stay nimble, stay educated and be ready for change!
Keep reading the great content here on Bank of America’sSmall Business Community and be sure to follow my Facebook Page closely as the year continues to unfold and we all adapt to pending changes on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp.
About Mari Smith
Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on Facebook marketing and social media. She is a Forbes’ Top Social Media Power Influencer, author of The New Relationship Marketing and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day. Forbes recently described Mari as, “… the preeminent Facebook expert. Even Facebook asks for her help.” She is a recognized Facebook Partner; Facebook headhunted and hired Mari to lead the Boost Your Business series of live events across the US. Mari is an in-demand speaker, and travels the world to keynote and train at major events.
Her digital marketing agency provides professional speaking, training and consulting services on Facebook and Instagram marketing best practices for Fortune 500 companies, brands, SMBs and direct sales organizations. Mari is also an expert webinar and live video broadcast host, and she serves as Brand Ambassador for numerous leading global companies.
Bank of America, N.A. engages with Mari Smith to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Mari Smith is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Mari Smith. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.