Will Facebook really help us get to grips with data privacy?

What's the future of data privacy? There's a lot of data out there but who's doing what with it and how can we really get back in control?
19 April 2018

Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Source: Shutterstock

Facebook has faced a lot of heat in the past month or so over the Cambridge Analytica data leak, however, Mark Zuckerberg has been strong and reassured the US government (and the world) that the company will take measures to better protect data in the future.

Zuckerberg, the 33-year old Facebook CEO  has also apologized to the public, in print and online – although most citizens agree that it’s not enough.

During the congressional hearing, there was also news that the social media company was pushing back on implementing GDPR-like privacy measures beyond the European Union. However, Zuckerberg did clear up the air soon after and announced that the company would do its best to roll out compliance features across the globe.

While the world applauded the efforts by US lawmakers to question the founder of the social network, quite a few issues seemed to have been missed. Fake profiles, shadow profiles, and questions about data lineage are among the top concerns for informed citizens who are still waiting to hear from Facebook.

Gates says Facebook might pave the way for data security

Yesterday, Bill Gates (on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme) appreciated how Zuckerberg responded at the congressional hearing and how he’s handled matters so far, but hopes that the company will help the world figure out data privacy in the future.

A recent article in the Business Insider quoted the Microsoft founder supporting Facebook:

“They are in the hot seat of some very state-of-the-art issues. As a leader, Facebook has got to help the world figure this out,” said Gates, who advised Zuckerberg to make data privacy his “total focus” now.

“He is somebody who takes a long-term view. He’ll be glad to reduce the business’ prospects, to make sure that the privacy promises make consumers feel good,” Gates said.

In an interview with Sky News, Gates explained that there’s risk associated with every new invention.

“Cars ended up killing people. Electricity ended up electrocuting people. Almost nothing we ever invented is 100 percent beneficial in figuring out ‘ok, how do you deal with the safety issues? How do you deal with licencing issues?’. We’re seeing as this technology becomes so pervasive – even a key tool of communication – there’s a lot of regulatory issues that are having to be developed,” said Gates.

Your data is valuable. Who’s protecting it?

Everyone wants your data, and Facebook (and some other internet giants) have access to a lot of it.

People want your data so they can market to you, efficiently. In other words, they want it so they can understand who you are and what you really want, so they can basically profile you and then create marketing messages that will truly appeal to you.

Doing so will get you to “feel” for the product or service and the brand, and make you yearn for it. It’s what marketers dream of – but is that want you really want?

After listening to how marketers use data to target their ads, people feel exploited. Obviously, your data is very valuable to anyone who can get their hands on it – but it’s not easy to protect it yourself in a world that’s almost entirely digital now.

The EU’s GDPR comes into effect on the 25th of next month, and other regulators need to catch up and find ways to protect their citizens.

“Europe’s got a new set of regulations. Companies are going to adhere to those and I’m sure they’re going to have to evolve. It’s a good first step to put consumers in control. The governments have the ability to set the rules and make sure the negative effects are minimized,” Gates said.