Radio Sputnik discussed this issue with Vince Mitchell, Professor of Marketing at the University of Sydney Business School.
Vince Mitchell: I think there’s a little bit of hypocrisy here. For the past 14 years Facebook has been much more interested in exploiting the personal data rather than protecting personal data. And it’s kind of rich; it takes a whistleblower to uncover this. And yet, for him to come out in public and say “Oh, yes, it was my fault. I’m sorry now.
But you’re a multi-millionaire, your company made $4.3 billion profit in the last quarter alone; you can employ the best people in the world to advise you. Are you really saying, you had no idea about this in the last 14 years? And then what that shows, I think that shows the failure of regulation in this area.
Even companies as large as Facebook with all of their resources and technical expertise can’t keep control of the data. And so what chance do other companies who are less well-skilled, less well-resourced that we also invest our personal data in, what chance do these companies have at keeping the personal data safe if Facebook can’t?
Sputnik: Zuckerberg’s talking about the fact that we shouldn’t overregulate social media and other tech companies. Do you think we are actually going to see more government right regulation?
Vince Mitchell: We could think about the potential 87 billion people whose data was compromised yet here. And it’s now a big enough thing that people now have to take this seriously. These things have been happening for years, tech companies had been exploiting the loopholes in the law to make money from our personal data.
These kinds of big instances which make people sit p, even regulators and say “Yeah well maybe it’s time to legislate a bit more.” So we would expect Zuckerberg not to want that but I think the legislators now might need to reconsider the laissez faire. And certainly in Europe this is happening. So the EU legislation called the General Data Protection Regulation and so that’s a window into how the regulation in this area could be more effective and beholden to other countries around the world then to consider their citizens’ rights.
Sputnik: Do you think that we’re going to see any changes though?
Vince Mitchell: I think the delete Facebook campaign is useful. Whether you choose to leave or not you can still get behind that campaign. And what we know about social media networks and the Internet in general is that they’re good at marshalling and gathering a kind of force behind a campaign. So we need to use that to force Facebook and other social media to take notice of this. And the delete this campaign is simply a way of demonstrating a protest.
The issue of Facebook and people leaving of course they can’t, there were the same problems with the financial crisis of 2008. With banks too big to fail Facebook is too big to fail. It doesn’t have a credible competitor.
So if these people didn’t want to use Facebook what are they going to use? So this is a failure of market competition the fact that they have allowed Facebook to become so big that it now can potentially be easily controlled by the competition law and controlled because there isn’t anywhere else for anybody to go to exit Facebook get out or that kind of thing.
That may change in the future. At the moment there’s no other platform way near what Facebook here has.
Sputnik: What do you think is going to happen as far as the regulation and as far as people are being more proactive?
Vince Mitchell: The privacy is dead argument, which is what you are making is one that lots of people make. Sitting online where for some people it is true and some people don’t care that privacy is dead. So to make them care it’s only recently that Facebook has allowed you to download all of the data that they have on you. So I would encourage people to do that just to check out exactly what kind of data these companies hold on you and you will be amazed at the volume, and the detail, and the specificity.
But the second thing is that it’s the property of digital data, yet namely, that you might not think that this is important and so what do you think of this identity test. So even that you don’t have the information that is useful to the world I can go and say that it’s useful to somebody for something and the fact that it’s now digital and it isn’t properly protected if it is getting into the wrong hands, as it did in the Cambridge Analytica case, that’s just one example, the one thing that could potentially happen.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of Vince Mitchell and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.