Flop of the month: Mark Zuckerberg's initial silence while Facebook burned

Facebook is in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons these days - but while fake news and extremist content had been the topics on everybody's lips for some time, could the way it uses personal data prove to be a killer blow?

Mark Zuckerberg remained silent for three days over Cambridge Analytica while £25bn was wiped off Facebook's value
Mark Zuckerberg remained silent for three days over Cambridge Analytica while £25bn was wiped off Facebook's value

This month, a whistle-blower from data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica claimed that the company he had worked for had obtained the profiles and personal data of up to 50 million Facebook users and then used it to target voters in the 2016 US presidential elections, on behalf of Donald Trump’s campaign.

One commentator on PRWeek described it as a "watershed moment", as the public began to comprehend the volume of personal data ceded to Facebook in return for using the service and, crucially, how insidiously this data can be used.

Both Cambridge Analytica and Facebook denied wrongdoing, but that did not prevent mounting public anger and a raft of think-pieces and hashtags urging people to delete their Facebook profile – or at least download and view all the personal data Facebook holds on them.

The company's share price nosedived, wiping £25bn off its value in three days, as lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic issued calls for Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to appear before their committees and answer questions.

Zuckerberg finally broke his silence after three days to apologise on CNN and to issue a statement promising reform, which also admitted that there had been a "breach of trust" between Facebook and its users.

Perhaps Zuckerberg should have read up on the power of the well-timed public apology; speed and sincerity are everything in these cases.

The public’s mind seems to have collectively shifted towards better protection of their personal data – with potentially fatal consequences for Facebook.

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