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💬💬A changing of the social media guard

This week starts a series on the future of social platforms and our data. Looking at the fall out fro
💬💬A changing of the social media guard
By Connected Paths (Riaz Kanani) • Issue #63 • View online
This week starts a series on the future of social platforms and our data. Looking at the fall out from Facebook’s testimony to congress in the USA shows how pivotal a moment we are in.
There are a range of topics to cover - this week focuses on data, future weeks will look at the business model, privacy and information warfare.
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Cheers - Riaz

The days of Google and Facebook alluding to a future of no privacy we can safely say are dead. 
That is not where we have ended up. Uncontrolled sharing of data has led to a desire to control data more not less. 
This past week has seen Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg, its CEO, face questions from congress over the alleged Cambridge Analytica data leak. 
A lot of ground got covered and whilst it could have gone either way, Facebook have come out of it relatively unscathed. Its stock price at least is up.
The delivery
Facebook understands virality of content perhaps better than most. The one thing it would not want to come out of these public sessions was negative viral content. Perhaps that explains Mark’s approach across the two days - one of keeping provocation and scandal to a minimum.
It led to personal attacks about his Borg-like nature and comments on his stature but little interesting content about his testimony.
Perhaps the biggest problem is that it meant Zuckerberg did not endear himself to the wider public, which could cause him issues in the future. It was nothing like the more public interactions across 2017 that led to talk of him being a future presidential candidate.
Challenging the status quo
Meaty topics that could forever change the way the public uses the Internet were covered. 
So perhaps this could have been a pivotal moment.
If we are, the politicians did not do their homework and there is a long way to go.
There are multiple challenges facing Facebook right and all got covered to a greater or lesser degree:
1. Data
2. Privacy
3. Business Model
4. Fake news
5. Information warfare
To cover all this in one week would take a long time so I am going to spread these over multiple weeks. This week focusing on data.
Should Facebook control the data it collects?
This whole session started because of the issue of securing data. Data shared with Cambridge Analytica was allegedly not deleted and in turn allowed people to be manipulated. 
Journalists and politicians alike seem to struggle with the idea that data once shared with a third party can no longer be controlled technically. 
Today it is controlled through contract.
Understanding how Facebook interfaces with third parties was also confusing many.
Data sharing for advertising and data sharing when using apps on Facebook are different scenarios. 
Facebook’s business model is built on advertising and it is able to control 18% of the advertising market thanks to the data it holds on its users. Google controls 44% leaving the rest with not very much. 
We’ll address the business model another day but it does not make sense for Facebook to share that data with advertisers. It would remove the very advantage that has allowed Facebook to control a significant amount of advertising spend. 
Anyone advertising on Facebook can only select a targeting criteria which Facebook uses to decide who should see an advert.
Apps on Facebook on the other hand are a different story. 
Facebook does not own these services. It is similar to the relationship between your Internet provider and a website albeit Facebook is holding data on you that can be shared with the app. Internet providers provide very little information to websites. Though Internet providers are also making money from your data in other ways that would also be useful to bring to into the public light - but that is a different issue. 
With apps on Facebook - when you access an app, in the same way as when you choose to fill out a form on a website, you are sharing data with that company. Agreeing to do so means passing that data to the app provider. 
Facebook no longer has control over it. 
This was fast and loose several years ago, with Facebook trusting app providers far too much. Facebook eventually locked this down but the cat was already out of the bag. 
Things are much more secure today than back then. But when using apps today, you can still share your profile data and friend’s list with apps. This is still opaque to most users and Facebook could improve this experience.
Could we make Facebook more powerful?
Locking down apps and requiring Facebook (or Apple or Microsoft or Amazon etc) to stay in control of the data shared with apps is technically possible. 
This has advantages in that apps no longer hold your data and it also means when you choose to stop using an app you can prevent them accessing your data in the future. 
But this gives Facebook (and the other platforms) significant power. Suddenly they are the controllers of your data. 
Facebook already has an outsized advantage in advertising - this would give them access to currently secret industry knowledge about other services allowing Facebook or other platforms to expand over time into competing services and become even larger entities.
This route would at the very least require regulation around portability of identity and services. 
This is already being worked on using blockchain technology and I would be very surprised if Facebook (and other platforms) were not already watching this space.
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Connected Paths (Riaz Kanani)

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