Reputation Management: Takeaways From Facebook’s Unfolding Privacy Scandal

Reputation-Management--Takeaways-From-Facebook's-Unfolding-Privacy-Scandal

Facebook’s unfolding privacy scandal has prompted the company to release privacy policy changes. After providing unauthorized disclosures of private information to Cambridge Analytica, a third-party firm that used the data to allegedly target users and profile voters for the Donald Trump campaign, Facebook has faced immense criticism over their mishandling of user data. The degree of its influence on the U.S. presidential election in 2016 is still not fully known, although it’s expected to be uncovered as the investigation continues.

Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan stated that in the last week, they learned how much work needs to be done to enforce new policies and help users better understand how Facebook operates, allowing them to make informed choices about their data and its usage.

For businesses worldwide, there are some key takeaways from Facebook’s unfolding privacy scandal. From a reputation management perspective, there’s a lot to be said about the way Facebook handled the criticism, as well as how they have responded.

Facebook also stated something along the lines of that they’ve heard loud and clear about the discontent with privacy settings and they recognize some of their privacy tools are difficult to locate, and they will do more to fix things going forward.

However, in 2010, Zuckerberg himself made a similar statement stating he heard the incoming feedback and sees there needs to be simpler, better ways to control access to information. He said then, there would be privacy implementations to make that possible.

Zeynep Tufekci, a professor at the University of North Carolina was one critic who did not stay silent stating that in the past decade, she has seen how users concerns with privacy policies on Facebook have had little effect on the platforms decision making. She said the company simply recycles their statements and promises, but never actually takes action.

Reputation management can be tricky for businesses to get right. In Facebook’s case, they are making a real attempt to address the issue once and for all but publicly, they have chosen to remain relatively quiet. While this may in part have legal ties, their failure to address the issue with a broader statement that explains their unwillingness to make policy changes in the past is what is continuing to hurt their image.

Many users are outraged over the response, seeing as how Zuckerberg has stated the same response as in the past. The only real difference today is that a policy change has indeed been implemented and user privacy controls have been simplified. The new changes have made it easier for users to see what information they have shared, posts they have deleted, and controls over the advertisements they see. However, to permanently delete some aspects of a Facebook profile still requires third-party integration and the changes from Facebook did not implement full-fledged control.

Here are some of the takeaways from the unfolding privacy scandal:

  • Facebook didn’t provide an in-depth response. Rather, they restated what they have said in the past, angering some users. They didn’t address much other than the changes they have now implemented. They could have addressed their failures to implement change in the past.
  • Facebook didn’t clear the air. There was no saving face with the scandal that has unfolded. They manipulated user data and are essentially taking blame for that. Here, it would have been more effective to divert the issue by resolving it in any way possible.
  • Prior to the scandal, Facebook should have been actively polling users with real data to support what users want, what’s important based on actual user needs, and then develop a priority list and explain their stance on the matter. They have no data or stats to back up their inability to make change, which suggests they simply avoided it.
  • Reputation management¬†is essential to maintaining a strong image and stopping a scandal in its tracks. If Facebook had addressed this very real issue prior to the scandal and kept close tabs on the wants of users, they wouldn’t be in the dire situation they are now.

Ultimately, Facebook is expected to recover from the scandal but their stock is down and public image is hindered significantly. It shows the importance of a proactive and preventative reputation management strategy.

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