Can buying a cybersecurity firm help repair Facebook’s image?

If everything goes to plan, the social media giant will acquire a cybersecurity firm within the next 70 days.
23 October 2018

New Horizons for personalised messaging Source: Bertrand Guay / AFP

There’s news that Facebook is looking to spend a couple of million dollars on acquiring an established cybersecurity firm that can “help” the social media giant better protect its users.

According to those in the know, the deal is expected to be sealed by the end of the year — which seems easy enough given that Facebook knows what kind of firm it wants and the capabilities it needs.

Obviously, finding a company that can be easily integrated into Facebook’s current services makes sense, but the company might hold out for a vendor who can promise to automatically detect, report, and even mitigate hacking attempts — given the recent cyberattack on the platform.

Although buying a cybersecurity firm can offer many benefits, access to top talent and industry specialists being one of them, a chance to own effective proprietary algorithms being another, there seem to be other factors at play in Facebook’s decision to go shopping.

A recap of Facebook’s challenges so far

Ever since the Cambridge Analytica scandal came to light in March, business has been quite challenging for Facebook’s top brass.

Investigations into the scandal not only tarnished Facebook’s brand but also caused users to start wondering if they should boycott the social media platform altogether.

In May, when the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was implemented, the company was dragged into the spotlight again for its initial resistance to rolling out GDPR-like protections in the US.

Next, in July, after a poor Q2 earnings call, the social media giant lost US$120 billion in market cap. It was declared the biggest single-day market cap wipeout in US history.

Well, even the US President seemed annoyed with Zuckerberg and his platform by the end of August, claiming that the platform (along with Google and Twitter) are burying news about him and attempting to silence conservatives.

Over the next few months, Facebook seemed to mistakenly remove filters (protections) from some of its user’s posts and then announced that it was the victim of a cyberattack that impacted 30 million of its users.

The company is also in hot waters with the law for how it misrepresented the success of videos ads to several advertisers — many of whom are considering a change and looking for other avenues to spend their ad dollars.

To tide over all the challenges it has had this year, stepping into 2019 with a strong cybersecurity firm in its portfolio will bring many advantages.

Facebook is preparing for a better 2019

The social media giant has appeared before regulators and council members in the US and the EU, and has responded quite positive to requests from governments in other key markets like India and Singapore.

The company has also complied with the GDPR’s regulations — most recently announcing the cyberattack on its 30 million users within 72 hours of discovering it — in line with the requirements of the EU law.

Facebook is also working on repairing its image, changing advertising metrics to better reflect the performance of its video ads. It also aims to gain back the trust of users with several new features including disclosing the ads a page is promoting and being more transparent about political ads.

That being said — the company does appear to be a little scattered when it comes to protecting users and covering all bases. Also, it’s important to note that Facebook also owns WhatsApp and Instagram — both of which can do with a new cybersecurity team looking for existing vulnerabilities with fresh eyes.

Overall, the issues that have come up this year, barring Cambridge Analytica, could have been prevented with a tighter control on code and a more watchful eye on access — at least on the surface.

If the company wants to show everyone that it’s a serious enterprise with concrete plans to get back on top of the list of tech companies that will shape the future, buying a cybersecurity company is a good step.