Column Road

Is Facebook untouchable in a social media world?

By Karis Pearson

While out on Friday night a friend of mine went to check his phone, only to find he had been logged out of his Facebook account. He was a little confused, but his news app told him it was a result of a security breach. Drastic action was not taken, and I think his biggest inconvenience was probably having to log back in. This somewhat complacent reaction was similar I am sure to the other ninety million people who picked up their devices to find Facebook had logged them out after tens of thousands of profiles were hacked.

I don’t mean to sound so judgemental to these kinds of reactions. I use Facebook myself, and while my account wasn’t hacked, I can assure you it is unlikely I’d have rushed to deactivate it over news of a hack. As much as it pains me to admit it, Facebook is quite important in how I manage my life. I am definitely not alone here. Whether you specifically use Facebook or not, you probably have a presence on some other social media app, maybe Instagram, or Snapchat, or even Tinder. Using social media has become an integral part of our lives, with connecting, sharing and definitely snooping being routine things we do online. While I’d like to think I could delete my accounts and live a less constantly connected sort of life, more Henry David Thoreau style, in reality I still use Facebook almost every day to check group chats, organise plans and generally stay in the loop.

We treat Facebook like our friend. Why else would we share with it so many personal details about ourselves? We not only voluntarily give up our name, date of birth, location, job, interests, friends list, personal photos to Facebook; but also, plenty of data that is produced from all our online clicks. You may not care who sees your data, you’ve put it all on there for viewer consumption and that’s that. But, I think we’d all be surprised at the damage that could be done if that amount of personal data ended up in the wrong hands.

In the aftermath of the hack, The Economic Times suggested that Facebook may suffer the consequences of having broken crucial trust with its users. A simple understanding of customer- business relations tells that when a business breaks consumer trust, the consumer loses faith in that company and will go elsewhere for its services. I’m not so sure. The issue here is slightly atypical to previous examples of companies breaking trust, such as consumers going to a different supermarket because of a horse meat scandal or buying a panini from a different (but still extremely similar) sandwich chain because their usual accidentally caused a fatality. Facebook provides a service that is currently pretty unrivalled within the market. While I would be more than happy to switch supermarket or sandwich shop, switching social media would perhaps come less easily.

So, what does this mean for the future of social media use? It’s becoming a sort of trend among us to do a ‘social media cleanse’; deleting apps and trying to be less reliant on them day to day. Most of the time however we fail to permanently delete our accounts, aware that we may wish to log back in at some point. So long as the account is there, our information is available to anyone with the ability and inclination to access it.

For days after the hack Facebook claimed they were unable to clarify the exact nature of the breach, meaning other apps under the Facebook umbrella could be vulnerable too. Cybersecurity is a complex area, and answers may not surface for months, or even years. It’s been suggested that Facebook may face a fine of up to £1 billion, but for a man with a net worth of nearly £60 billion, that slap on the wrist won’t have a lasting effect for Mark Zuckerberg. No, in the meantime, Zuckerberg will sit in Facebook HQ bathing in his remaining £59 billion, relishing our inability to get off Facebook.

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