What does the Facebook data scandal mean for brands’ and consumer trust

Early this week, I logged on to the PRmoment India Facebook page to find a request to take a survey on Facebook’s business offerings, at the end was this section on data security:

Even as Facebook seeks to gather further data from Indian consumers on perceptions about its’ data security practices, as the largest online platform for brands’, is Facebook doing enough to assure Indian brands and consumers?

In the wake of the data scandal, Anand Mahindra, one of the most active Indian promoter CEOs’ on Twitter said there was a need to develop domestic social networking firms which are, “Widely owned, willingly regulated and professionally managed.”

In his own words, the tweet received a strong response:  

Brands response to Facebook data scandal

The most dramatic  and swift response has been by Elon Musk who went ahead and deleted the Telsa and Space X pages from Facebook in the last week of March.

In India, according to ‘The Economic Times’ top advertisers such as Nestle and ITC has asked Facebook about steps being undertaken to ensure consumer protection of data associated with brand advertising.

A mail to Facebook India by PRmoment India regarding what steps are being taken to ensure consumer data protection went unanswered at the time of publishing.

Senior corporate communications professional, Aditya Kshirsagar opines, “Brands today can target users at a micro level. The ability of being able to granularly target individuals is a scary proposition. Brands and users need to work together to be able to control what they are being exposed to.”

Manas Mrinal, co-founder, Skateboard Media, feels that any reduction of brand engagement with Facebook will be temporary. He, also feels however, that there must be greater but nuanced policy control, “Digital laws are still evolving in India and many internet platforms are adopted here rather than created so we are still following more global practices at this nascent stage.  But eventually laws will need to toughened basis the usage patterns on the citizens here. As the Indian government pushes for a more aggressive digital India, the laws of implementation will need to evolve at the same pace for protection of both the innovators as well as users.”

Kshirsagar, however qualifies the meaning of data control at the user end saying that, “Absolute control over personal data is key for a thriving democracy. Citizens need to be able to control and protect their personal data.”

Mrinal feels that, “ What an individual needs to understand that FB fallout is just the tip of the ice berg and at any given point the same individual has same data shared with multiple platforms so leaving one doesn’t erase the virtual identity.The honest fact remains that users when they sign up at any digital platform are well aware of the information they are willing to share and with a increasingly evolving digital world, this practice cannot be nullified because of its basic DNA. The cyber laws thought play a critical part in protection of the information as sharing ones private details doesn’t give authority to any platform to utilise it without consent or responsible communication before hand.”

Facebook and India

The UK and US market saw full page ads by Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg  reassuring consumers about protecting their data. However, in India, which has the largest number of users worldwide, Facebook’s public reassurances have been low-key. Apart from comments about not allowing Facebook to be misused in upcoming crucial Indian elections, the larger issue of Indian consumers and the safety of their data going forward has not been commented on much. Certainly, no full-page ads here or an apology on the account of every Indian Facebook user.

Kshirsagar is not convinced that Facebook has done enough to reach out to Indian consumers. He says, “Facebook has not done enough to rectify the problem of fake news. It is thriving especially in India over Facebook and WhatsApp. When an interested party works with the rich dataset that FB provides, it opens up doors to a lot of content that can be created to instigate or psychologically influence HUGE audiences. As far as, PR fallout is concerned, nothing has really happened to the brand per se. The political parties and mainstream media have (yet again) maintained an uncomfortable silence.”

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