Following two grueling days of testimony wherein members of Congress posed some rather serious questions regarding user privacy and data, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has his work cut out for him.
Having survived the grilling proffered by politicians who seemed not to understand how the world's largest social network (or the Internet) works, Zuckerberg met every challenge, referring (at times, awkwardly) to a notebook filled with points to be made, as well as details on the privacy and data updates Facebook released in the weeks leading up to the hearings.
Broadcast and streamed for all to see, the inquiries addressed many of the questions brands and marketers were likely to have, from GDPR implications to the steps Facebook intends to take to rebuild public trust. With regard to the former, we learned that the implementation of GDPR compliance (or more specifically, the offering of privacy controls and requests for "affirmative consent" for certain data) will no longer be limited to Europe and will affect Facebook users around the world.
To address affirmative consent, Facebook is planning to publish a new feature that offers users a tour through their settings, allowing them to update as they go. While these may vary by region (with European users likely to receive a more comprehensive walkthrough), we should expect to see this function at the top of our News Feeds soon.
Should Facebook Be Treated as a Media Company?
Amidst inferences that Facebook should be treated as a media company, the topic of monetization - both of people and the platform itself - was hot. The notion of a paid (read: ad-free) version of Facebook was discussed, and although Zuckerberg didn't rule it out entirely, he did use his time to remind the committee of his company's mission: "to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together," without charging users for access to the platform.
So while a subscription model seems to be off table (for now), one can easily imagine a room filled with number-crunchers exploring the potential fees Facebook would need to compensate for lost ad dollars, particularly in markets like the United States and Canada, where the average ad revenue generated per monthly active user is said to be almost $83.
While publishers continue to struggle with content distribution on Facebook, few (Zuckerberg included) would argue that the platform should be held accountable for the content that's posted and hosted. Recent initiatives directed at fake news and abusive content certainly seem to suggest that Zuckerberg isn't just taking a more active stance; but he's also putting his money where his mouth, adding to his content review team and making some sizable investments in AI.
Regulation Is Coming
With regard to regulation, it's not a matter of if, but when, change will come. When pressed, Zuckerberg averred that he remains open, so long as the proposed measures are appropriate. In the meantime, Facebook has given its users control over the data and content they share and will continue to use its own (vs. third-party) data and algorithms to push targeted ads that will continue to provide brands with high levels of ROI based on those actions.
For the time being, we recommend that advertisers keep a close watch on Facebook's steps. . Don't pull your Facebook advertising, don't #DeleteFacebook, but do demand that they become more responsive to you as an advertiser just as they've vowed to become more responsive to their users. Facebook has a lot of work to do - on multiple fronts - but so do those who rely on data to drive performance and deliver the best possible experience to users without compromising their privacy.