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How Much Will Cambridge Analytica Data Scandal Impact Facebook Usage?

As you will all be aware of now, Facebook was recently involved in a data breach scandal, in which Cambridge Analytica collected ‘personally identifiable information’ of up to 87 million Facebook users. The data was then allegedly used to influence the opinions of US election voters, in a breach that can be traced back to 2014. Facebook has since issued a public apology to those affected, and everyone else using the social media platform. This month, as a result of this ‘breach of trust’, Facebook decided to implement the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation in all areas of operation and not just the European Union.

4 min read

So now that you have sufficient background information to this huge story, let’s try and assess what impact these events might (or might not) have on Facebook, its users and advertisers.

Public Response

The release of the news was met with outrage by the international community, who blamed Facebook for allowing this breach of data to take place. Many Facebook users threatened to never use the social platform again, with #deleteFacebook trending all over the world.

Even WhatsApp co-founder, Brian Acton, urged Facebook users to ditch the social media giant in the wake of this troubling news story. Some truly believed Facebook’s end was nigh. Well, we’re not so sure about. Let me explain why.

Forrester, one of the world’s most influential research and advisory firms, revealed some interesting results that they obtained from their rigorous research.

Firstly, the notion that the general public would immediately start deleting their Facebook account or simply stop using it, is a great exaggeration. Sure, a few may have made that decision for themselves, but it’s not an overly common one. In fact, Forrester’s research explains that users are more than aware of Facebook’s recent issues with hacking and data protection. It just didn’t influence them into making a decision to leave Facebook behind. Old habits die hard and this is not expected to impact the online activity of most Facebook users.

As far as developing countries are concerned, a change in online behaviour is even less likely to take place. This is because people in countries where Internet access isn’t affordable to many, are confined to the use of Free Basics, which is a partnership between Facebook and six companies (Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Opera Software, Nokia & Qualcomm). Through the use of various technologies, they are able to give over 40 million people access to Facebook’s Internet.org, where they can gain access to services like news, communication, job information, travel information etc. Considering that this is their only way of connecting with the rest of the world and accessing the Internet, it is unrealistic to expect these to stop using Facebook.

Impact On Brands And Advertisers

The impact this news will have on brands’ and advertisers’ use of Facebook is actually expected to be even less! Of course these will now have to cope with new laws and regulations set by the GDPR update, but their presence on Facebook is not expected to change whatsoever. And why would it?

More than two billion people use Facebook, it’s simply a goldmine for companies. Brands and advertisers are in a perpetual state of constantly trying to increase their reach. Excluding Facebook from their strategy would make life unimaginably harder for them. In terms of expanding their reach, driving traffic to their pages and websites, and targeting visitors with dynamic ads in order to improve their conversion rates, Facebook is an indispensable medium.

Sure, due to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook has decided to cut off access to third-party data aggregators for advertisers, making it harder to target people with high precision. However, in the bigger picture it is not expected to affect business too much, as Facebook and other businesses still have a significant amount of first-party data at their disposal.

Facebook Is Not Alone

At the end of the day, it’s also important to keep in mind that Facebook was not the only company that has failed to protect their customers’ data safety. It has, unfortunately, for many people around the world, become an all too familiar story.

Last month, Equifax, a US credit bureau, reported that a total of nearly 148 million Americans had been impacted by a data breach, which included the exposure of people’s Social Security Numbers.

In the same month, the UK’s National Lottery warned more than 10 million of their players with online accounts to change their passwords, as a security breach had taken place. Although the number of accounts that were successfully accessed by the hackers was little, it still cast some doubt over whether the company was able to safely store their customers’ data.

A final example comes from two of the biggest gaming corporations: Xbox and PlayStation. Last year, the account details of approximately 2.5 million users were released after the networks were attacked by hackers back in 2015. This was not the first time that Sony fell victim to the hacking of its PlayStation network. In 2011, the data of 77 million users were accessed by hackers, which sparked an international outrage.

GDPR To Restore Data Protection?

So, next month we can expect data protection rules across Europe and the rest of the world experience their biggest change in over two decades. The updated GDPR will change how brands and businesses can handle their customers’ information.

This will aim to increase transparency and better protect online users’ data. It is hoped that this will one day bring back the trust, although that is a process which is expected to take some time.

For now, though, we don’t expect to see a difference in online behaviour from neither the customers nor the advertisers and companies.

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