Menlo Park, CA — Facebook recently announced they will be opening up five cafes in the UK, though it isn’t an attempt to sell you coffee or foster social interaction. Instead, these cafes will be opportunities for Londoners to receive Facebook privacy check-ins, while enjoying a free cup of joe. This comes on the heels of the 2016 Cambridge Analytica scandal, the Bloomberg report revealing how Facebook was transcribing their Messenger app users’ conversations, and various other privacy and data leaks. They hope that by walking users through how to set up their privacy settings, users will trust that they are now, finally, taking privacy seriously.
This move also pivots the responsibility back to the user, reminding them that Facebook isn’t actually the one responsible for monitoring their users’ information. Unfortunately for Facebook, that is not necessarily true. As a platform they have the responsibility to prevent data breaches and unauthorized use of a user’s information. This isn’t a legal requirement, yet, but the numbers speak for themselves. Between 2017 and 2018, Facebook lost 15 million users in the United States, which isn’t a great sign for the social media behemoth. While it remains the most-used platform, it is seeing decreased popularity, especially among the 12- to 34-year-old demographic. Fifteen million users may be a drop in the bucket, but based on their 2018 earnings report the company loses around $27 per user in ad revenue.
To Facebook’s credit, they have resources available to help users learn about their privacy settings and options. They even offer privacy check-ups online, but it isn’t something you’re going to stumble upon unless you’re looking for it. Most users operate under the assumption that their data and privacy are secure by default, so they aren’t perusing the privacy basics page of Facebook. And, it should be the default, but it’s become clear that isn’t necessarily the case. Through actions of their own, data breaches, and continued manipulation by foreign actors, Facebook has proved that your time on their platform won’t include a sense of security. But you might get a free coffee.
Cream or Sugar — Facebook isn’t alone in this lapse of security. Everyone from Twitter to Dow Jones has been victimized by hackers and lost their users’ data. When this happens, there is usually an apology, and explanation of how it happened, and what they’re doing to prevent it going forward. Last but not least, there is a reminder to the users: Don’t forget to change your password and update your privacy settings. While it is good advice, a reminder won’t calm the nerves of the billions of people affected by data breaches. Users should be doing everything in their power to prevent their data from being compromised, but the platforms they use and trust should be held to that same standard.