The online privacy debate has reached its most intense point to date, culminating in Zuck‘s speech on the hill. Despite tensions running high, this will hopefully deliver a clearer path to necessary user protections over the long term. A lasting balance between all the economic benefits of the commerce generated by digital advertising (needed for business growth and jobs), and also user privacy, is hopefully on the way.
But perhaps the most impactful moment of Zuck’s testimony was when one senator old enough to be his grandfather said “If Facebook and other online companies will not or cannot fix the privacy invasions, then we are going to have to, we the Congress.” Zucks face reacted as would a teen’s seeing their parents home one day early in the middle of an unauthorised house party! This was for good reason.
Any abstraction of user data the Congress would regulate would result in a loss in effectiveness for Facebook Ads, which is the companies primary income source. For example, advertisers can now target holiday makers by the number of weeks left before they leave for their holiday. These sorts of “privacy invasions” would likely be first on the chopping block. Less effective ads means less spend on ads.
Despite defering “to his team” a lot during questioning, Zuck did unbelievably well to answer clearly and not crack under immense pressure. His comments of “it was my mistake, and I’m sorry, I started Facebook and I run it” are an amazing PR crisis management feat. So perfectly scripted, I can see him in his jammies saying it in the mirror. The real art of that statement is that it gives all concerned parties the avenue of focusing their blame on Zuck personally, but also defuses the situation as no one person could realistically oversee the monster complexity of the Facebook machine.
The mere hint Zuck made about a paid version of Facebook sent stocks soaring up 4.5 percent, the biggest one day gain in 2 years. Regardless of the pressure FB is now facing, they are part of an elite now realistically “too big to fail” and will whether the storm. With social now too important to simply “delete” from our lives, let’s hope the day after the storm looks good for users and businesses alike.