File image: IOL.
File image: IOL.

Zuckerberg's paper apology for data breach

By Zeenat Vallie Time of article published Mar 27, 2018

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CAPE TOWN - Facebook responded to its privacy breach by issuing an apology in full-page ads in seven British and three American newspapers, reports The Verge. 

This comes after the social media company has been embroiled in a public data breach scandal which revealed that it allowed consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica to access users data. 

In its latest response to the scandal, Facebook issued an apology in full-page ads in newspapers with the likes of the Washington Post and The Observer. The ad is signed by CEO, Mark Zuckerberg and reads: “We have a responsibility to protect your information. If we can’t, we don’t deserve it”. 

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Accredited public relations practitioner, Wendy Masters says that Facebook caused mistrust in its brand as it did not respond immediately to the scandal. “The worst thing any person or company facing a crisis can do is keep silent”, says Masters. 

She adds that the online social network company knew that it had a problem with its third-part-app revenue stream. “Regarding Cambridge Analytica specifically, they’ve known for three years what was done with the data collected via the surveys that 270 000 Facebook members completed on MyDigitalLife”. 

Masters says that had Facebook disclosed its shortfall earlier and followed up with steps to protect user privacy, the issue could have been resolved. 

Negative press would be present but Facebook could have been positioned itself as a company that has its users best interests at heart. 

Masters says that the current saga cannot be referred to as strictly a data breach as the company’s values are also in question. “Zuckerberg’s response has been described as “one of the single-worst responses in the history of modern-day crisis management”. Facebook can recover from this, but it will take a great deal longer than it would have”, said Masters. 

When asked how Facebook can restore its brand, Masters said that there is no quick way to restore trust in a brand once that trust is broken.“Facebook has lost the value it relies on most – trust. It has earned sufficient brand equity over the past 14 years to survive.  But it will take a great deal of time and it will lose more than stock value before it regains the position of trust it once enjoyed.  It will have to go on an education offensive, and will have to tighten up regulations on the vague permissions explanations used by third-party apps when accessed by Facebook members". 

On the significance of Facebook’s full-page ad apology, Masters said that traditional media is a more trusted source of news. “The “fake news” era has dealt digital journalism a severe reputational knock". She adds that in a crisis of this scale, it’s imperative that all media outlets are engaged. "Facebook issued their apology across multiple media platforms - both traditional and social”, said Masters. 

When asked whether the value has diminished in online platforms, Masters said that the sharing of online platforms will keep growing. However, she hopes that a crisis of this nature will educate the public on considering what online content they consume. 

"As the digital media landscape evolves, quality will be more highly valued than quantity – it is already happening. Certain publishers will emerge with trust intact. Because of that trust, these will be the news sources that will be able to charge for information”, concluded Masters. 

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