Facebook has steadily gained dominance within the lucrative business enterprise of social media networks well over the past decade, now boasting an estimated 2.2 billion users since its 2004 founding and launch by Mark Zuckerberg, in concert with several of his Harvard College classmates. It’s also made Zuckerberg, 33, Facebook’s chairman and CEO, a very wealthy man whose current net worth has been estimated at $72.5 billion.
But what a difference a day — or more accurately — a week makes. Now the California-based social media behemoth, particularly its CEO, face what may be the company’s greatest challenge as public outrage surges over the alleged misuse of the private information of millions of its users — along with allegations claiming that it paved the way for Donald Trump to win the White House.
Add to that the recent launch of several investigations into the company’s data-hungry business model and “questionable” policies and procedures including who can access (or purchase) Facebook’s information-rich data base, initiated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a cadre of state attorneys and several powerful committees of Congress, and it’s easy to discern why their stocks have taken an unprecedented decline in value and why a mounting number of formerly-diehard members say they’re considering what, until now, seemed impossible: closing their accounts and moving on to other networks.
So, will Facebook because of its failure to protect its users be the source of its own demise — a Trojan Horse in the multibillion-dollar world of social networking services? Some experts and social media aficionados believe it’s could happen as the #DeleteFacebook movement gains in popularity.
Even Zuckerberg has admitted that mistakes and missteps have been made, offering a public apology, while also stating his willingness to meet before members of Congress or other high level federal and state officials gravely concerned over Facebook’s handling of people’s private information and the potential crisis it has allegedly caused.
But for other leaders within social media networking like Instagram, acquired by Facebook in 2012 for $1 billion, the future may either be reason to celebrate as former Facebook members change their allegiance or one fraught with fear if third parties have already gained access to its members’ data without their knowledge.
As for the now beleaguered England-based political research firm Cambridge Analytica, whose reputation and pending future now stand in serious jeopardy, reports that they obtained the personal data of 50 million-plus Facebook users via a personality-quiz app have resulted in a seismic upheaval in the U.S., England and beyond.
If Facebook Fails, Who Will Assume the Lead?
Even before the recent scandal became public knowledge, some Facebook users had already either deleted their accounts or had begun spending more time on Instagram, particularly since the presidential election. Some 800 million people access Instagram at least once a month, 500 million doing so every day.
While the percentage of Americans who use other social networks — Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest — have remained unchanged — Instagram has seen an uptick in use by seven percentage points from 2016, equivalent to 35 percent of U.S. adults according to Pew Center Research.
In addition, Instagram’s advertising business has risen dramatically — from 30 million users and zero revenue when first purchased by Facebook to solid predictions that they’ll reach $10 billion in revenue by 2019.
Instagram has also scored thanks to Snapchat, its rival messaging app, with the increasing popularity of Instagram Stories — an almost identical twin of a highly-used Snapchat feature. Instagram says the feature has an estimated 300 million users each day — with followers posting photos and videos whose lifespan is brief but impactful, before disappearing after 24 hours.
Are you fed up with Facebook, particularly in light of their recent admission that they’ve been aware of the misuse of their data base for more than the last two years? Are you looking for a new place on which you can hang your hat? Then it may be time for you to deactivate, then delete your account. But understand that the process, according to Facebook, may take up to 90 days. That is, before all of your photos, status updates and other information have been completely removed.
As for whether you should be confident that it’s possible to escape the clutches of Facebook and move to Instagram as the rival social media network continues to close the gap between the two industry leaders, remember that Facebook still owns Instagram. Thus, if you truly want to keep your information more secure and far away from Facebook, you may need to consider another alternative.
One thing’s for certain — new networks, new apps and new options loom just over the horizon — if you’re willing to take what may be deemed to be a reasonable “leap of faith.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: The FTC confirmed reports on Tuesday, March 27, that it is investigating how Facebook handles information about its users. Sen. Charles E. Grassley, a Republican from Iowa and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has invited Zuckerberg, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, to testify about privacy standards sometime in April.
Over the weekend, attorneys general for 37 U.S. states and territories are now investigating safeguards employed by Facebook and the process by which they monitored what app developers did with data collected from users.
Intense backlash and still unaddressed concerns have garnered the attention of a growing number of both U.S., as stated above, and European regulators. As for shares of Facebook, they fell as far as 6.5 percent on Monday, March 26 after the FTC confirmed its investigation but up 0.4 percent the end of the day.
As part of the FTC’s investigation, they will attempt to determine if Facebook violated the terms of a 2011 consent decree that the social media giant signed to protect users’ privacy. Each violation of the agreement, which the FTC reached with Facebook as part of a settlement over third-party apps, carries a penalty of up to $40,000 day.