It is very hard for a company such as Facebook which is big, complex, relies on vast amounts of user data, thousands of third-parties and spans many legal jurisdictions to get it right all of the time. We should not be critical of them for this. We should remember that what was deemed "right" or "acceptable" ten years ago, or five years or even last year changes. In practice this is the essence of Facebook for its advertisers and third-parties in answering the question what do our target audiences like, dislike, buy, vote for etc. Perhaps Facebook should consider applying their own technology on themselves and deciding what people now want Facebook to do and not to do.
However whilst this storm brews around the world, communications from Facebook seems to be none existent, or if there is communications it is being drowned by the negativity around these issues. I know only too well from my own communications experience as a Global Security and Privacy Officer for a complex multinational company that so called experts often advise "stay silent", and indeed at times this is sage advice. More often than not it is because these same advisers or communications professionals do not know what to say.
I do not know what the communications strategy is for Facebook, but here are some thoughts and suggestions:
- A good starting point is always the truth. It is true that Facebook has always allowed third-parties to use their platform for advertising, games etc. This is one of the reasons why Facebook is so successful because it presents relevant content to its users – say it;
- It is true that what Facebook thought of good privacy when it was formed and throughout its life has changed. Ten years ago privacy was not as good as it is today; five years ago privacy was not as good as it is today and in 1 years' time privacy will be better than it is today – say it;
- It is true that with so many advertisers and third-parties using Facebook platforms there are always those in the market who are more innovative than Facebook's ability to second guess every bad or evil intent – say it;
- It is true that as Facebook have found that its platform or user data is being used for purposes it was never intended they have closed gaps, or weaknesses, or introduced more user controls or more third-party controls – say it and quote some specifics;
- It is true that an "open" platform like Facebook's with a billion users and hundreds of thousands of third-parties will always be repurposed by some group in a way that will turn out not to be acceptable to another group, the moral compass of the day or potentially some legal requirement in another country – say it
But also say what Facebook stands for and what actions Facebook will take when it is confronted with such issues:
- Facebook will continue to operate an "open" platform connecting like-minded people with others even if the science is not 100% and there is a risk some might look to abuse this capability. The benefits of connecting the world outweighs the risk
- Facebook will continue to increase user control over its data but users must accept that the success of Facebook is about connections and having no connections or visibility to others is not the purpose of Facebook – we respect your decision not to use Facebook
- When we find issues or blatant abuse such as fake news, abuse or third-party apps we will close down the content or the application and tighten controls as quickly as we can. We cannot make a promise to spot every piece of fake news nor do we promise to spot every third-party or third-party applications that is doing something that we would find goes against the spirit of Facebook and its community.
At the moment silence is killing Facebook. If I was at Facebook I would be in the media every hour of every day