Case - Facebook: It's About the Money
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Q1. Perform an ethical analysis of Facebook. What is the ethical dilemma presented by this case?
Answer - Facebook (FB) is considered as one of the largest social networking platform serving more than 2 billion customers all over the globe. However, in this technology-driven society, security threats such as data phishing, breaches, data mishandling, impersonation, and cyber-attack have increased to a large extent. In the present report it is identified that Facebook is involved in personal data mishandling of millions of FB users, where they provides the advertisers with specifications like location, employment status, relationship status, and favourite movies. According to a report, Facebook has generated revenue of $3.2 billion from advertisements, which is approximately 85% of total revenue (Chalklen, & Anderson, 2017). In this way, Facebook, third-party companies, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), data collecting agencies are mutually involved in an unauthorized act of data harvesting of the users without their knowledge and consent, which ultimately violates the legal security aspects as well as the right to information. Apart from tailored advertisement, it also creates a huge opportunity for hackers and cybercriminals to plan targeted attacks and increases the risk of data breaching.
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Q2. What is the relationship of privacy to Facebook's business model?
Answer - The backbone of the Facebook business model is basically associated with providing highly customized advertisement on the user's page. Determining the relationship between user privacy and business model is most important because advertising is the prime source of revenue for FB. More than 70% of its total registered users log in every day, which attracts advertisers to collaborate with Facebook (Chalklen et al. 2017). It is ironic that the entire business model of this social media site is based on the sharing and aggregation of user's information. According to Facebook, the privacy aspect of an individual's account depends upon the amount of information made 'public' or 'private' by the user (Choi, & Land, 2016). The CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg believes in making a more open and connected world through the internet (Georgalou, 2016)). Providing a highly secured privacy setting can create difficulty for FB and the advertisers to collect uses information and make money. Hence, the developers provide a free social media platform to the public with minimal privacy settings and in turn, they sell their data.
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Q3. Describe the weaknesses of Facebook's privacy policies and features. What management, organization, and technology factors have contributed to those weaknesss?
Answer - With the advancement of digital technology and criminal activities, Facebook privacy policies and features seem to have weakened. The option of "Facebook's friend finder" retrieves data from an individual's account and suggest them with a suitable friend accordingly (Palmatier, & Martin, 2019). Most often it is observed that users get friend suggestions of strangers or unrelated individuals. Hence, this feature increases the risk of security threats. The FB profiles are by default can be searched through the "Facebook search" option and other search engines. The "default setting" in Facebook makes 'visible to all', which increases privacy risk for the user (Chalklen et al. 2017). Moreover, it provides unequal privacy protection standards for different countries.
It is mainly the strategy of management of FB to provoke users to share as much as data, which can be used further for advertisement purpose. With this intention, the company introduced the "News Feed Feature". Most of its features and services are enabled through the 'default setting' without any prior notification to the user. Similarly, the Beacon advertising service launched by FB was an "opt-out" feature, which continued to send information even if the users opted out (Palmatier, & Martin, 2019).
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Q4. Will Facebook be able to have a successful business model without invading privacy? Explain your answer. Are there any measures Facebook could take to make this possible?
Answer - In future, it is expected from Facebook to design a successful business model without invading users privacy. This can be possible when strict laws and regulations related to consumer rights will be implemented by the government of individual countries. After the recent congressional hearing, Mark Zuckerberg is trying to prevent data misuse from FB. In this context, the company will also abide by the European union's general data protection regulation (Palmatier et al. 2019). It is suggested that, FB should also plan to update the privacy setting and default setting as "visible to only friends" option. Regular monitoring and security check-up should be conducted to restrict any malicious virus. In addition to this, it can introduce e-tokens or OTP system for safe and secure access into FB account. Finally, users should also be educated about their personal security aspects on social media platform by posting pages related to "FB security", "FB privacy", and "FB safety". Still, if Facebook is using user's information, then they should provide the option of 'user's approval', which can help to protect the integrity of the consumers as well as of the company.