So here we are. Module 5 of Squared Online, The Final Countdown, The Home Straight, The Last Hurdle, The Last Leg, Finish Line Insight,*instert other sporting puns here*
There will most likely be at least 2 entries about module 5 as essential its a 2 pronged attack/finish to the course. For this first entry I am going to do something a little bit different and try help get my head around the task in hand.
Myself and the rest of Group 2 have to debate our stance on a given topic and to be honest we’re all still trying to get out head around it so we decided to each write up a blog entry to get our heads around the topic and then to discuss in tonight Google Hangout. Not that difficult you may say but when you have to consider we also have to research and make an infographic on the future of Clients in digital marketing it can get confusing quickly.
Our given debate topic, ‘Facebook’s Privacy and Data Use Policy is an unnecessary restriction upon its users rights’, ironically seems quite apt at the moment given that Facebook is currently celebrating it’s 10th birthday, which in itself is not bad going considering its humble beginnings as a student directory at Harvard University.
Now we have been assigned to the for motion for this debate, something that has really made us go away and think long and hard about, one that if I am brutally honest with myself I am still struggling to fully understand. To try and help me get an understanding of the whole topic i intended to view this not from a “Facebook” the product but more from “Facebook” the business and try to take into account all of Facebook’s portfolio’s and dealings in the last 2 years. OK it may not exactly be what the debate is asking from me but I hope it will at least be able to get my head around the topic.
So what has happened with Facebook, the business, in the last 2 years?
- 9th April 2012 – Facebook purchases Instagram for $1Billion
- 18th May 2012 – Facebook lists itself on the New York Stock exchange, therefore making the company a public company allowing people to buy stock into the company.
- 17th December 2012 – Under new ownership, Instagram updates its Terms of Service, confusion over what they actually meant caused user backlash as users felt that the new TOS was about selling users photos and data for its own profit.
- 20th December 2012 – Instagram backtracks on new TOS and reverts back to original TOS, announces its continued ambition to start to have adverts on the platform
- 4th April 2013 – Facebook releases Facebook Home – a Android only Launcher which replaces the existing Android home screen with an always updated Facebook new feed.
- 1st Nov 2013 – Instagram starts it’s roll out of adverts in the US only.
Just looking at the above 6 points its easy to see that Facebook is a business and in business you need to make money. A product’s terms of service/privacy control/term’s of conditions or what ever else you want to call them are integral part of protecting not only the user’s best interest and data but also sets out the rules in which collected data by the company can be used, and at the end of the day there is a lot of data available to Facebook that it could potentially use to its own means, with about 1.23 billion registered users posting a variety of different content, let alone their interests, location, computer cookies the list is endless.
Yet it’s the updates themselves which often cause the frustration and confusion amongst users towards the product, take the changes to Instagram post Facebook-purchasing for example, a couple of edited words to the TOS, which on closure inspection was actually more beneficial for users and helped protect them from advertisers using their photos in adverts, caused a backlash amongst users and for Instagram to reportedly lose an almost half of its user base in the space of a month, something which Instagram heavily denied.
Facebook itself has not had its fair share of TOS controversies ranging from:
- 3rd party developers selling collected data of users to another 3rd party (or would that be 4th party?) buyers who would use the data collected for their own means
- Beacon, a programme that auto-shared your online purchases with your friends, caused major user upset and eventually was discontinued and cause Mark Zuckerberg to issue a personal apology to Facebook’s users
Have I fully or even partially answered the debate question? Probably not, if anything I have only gone and confused myself even more.
Am I any closer to understanding the issue from Facebook’s point of view? Err… ish, I understand that the TOS are there both for our (the user) protection and for Facebook’s own business needs and that changes to TOS are a delicate and complicated situation, even if the majority of users ultimately don’t end up reading the full document.
I know the majority of changes are either for the user’s own benefit, to make the wordings and legal contract easier to understand, or are subtle changes in favour of the company to give them a little room to move and become profitable, something which is vital for Facebook considering that all of its accounts, personal and business pages, are free to sign up to.
Would I justify all of Facebook’s changes? Hard to say because even the most subtle change can send the average user into a spiral of confusion and doubt, even if the change ultimately works in their favour.
Untill next time.