Facebook’s data leak has exposed the kind of ad targeting that once kept people using its platform and has users increasingly revolting
Today marked an end to privacy concerns for Facebook. Photograph: Yann Thaque/EPA
Facebook has one last thing to say to users frustrated by the Cambridge Analytica scandal. If you want to see adverts tailored to your interests, you had better get up off your duff and pay for a second set of Facebook accounts. We’ll tell you how to do that, but first some bad news.
As we now know, Cambridge Analytica obtained and used users’ Facebook data in an attempt to influence the 2016 US presidential election. Facebook has told users how to secure themselves from having their personal information plundered in future. But that’s just one piece of advice.
You can use the “Manage Your Ad Settings” page to manage your privacy from your Facebook account, on their website. After three clicks, you should be surrounded by reports and warnings, including one warning that is supposed to sound before you check out that new account you want to create.
Of course, this isn’t actually foolproof: as today has shown, you could still be sitting there swiping your finger away while the message about becoming members of Facebook begins to materialise.
But that’s just one piece of advice from Facebook. I’ve been using Facebook for more than 12 years, and part of me is still using it, as I explained in April – but many of my friends have switched off entirely. The latest data leak has increased that disaffection.
And the scandal keeps going up, as Facebook attempts to win back users and turn around confidence in the platform. Yesterday it released an app called Show Us the Mess, through which users can show them what their friends like, even if they’ve used Facebook Places. Users can choose what they want their friends to see – but some have been concerned that these insights may allow advertisers to craft adverts based on what their friends really like. Facebook has decided that some data is ok for advertisers to use – it just needs to be contextually aware of where they are in the world, and if you’re in an area with a high concentration of fans for the show you’re watching, maybe it should give them a shout out.
Facebook users have legitimate concerns about the data they have handed over to the social network, and they have legitimate reason to feel distrustful of the company. That’s why people in Italy or Australia are suspicious of this latest attempt to improve user trust, because it suggests that Facebook has found that a majority of its users are not even remotely concerned by what it collects and uses.
Mark Zuckerberg will testify in front of the US Congress on the data leaks this week, and it’s almost certain that the company will struggle to convince the likes of me that Facebook has changed fundamentally for the better. As pressure on the company has increased, there’s been a subtle evolution from applying pressure to Zuckerberg to pressuring Facebook to modify the way it’s working.