It was a tight race, but we are officially declaring Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg as the executive most in need of a compliance makeover in 2019 (sorry, Elon Musk).
Facebook’s image took a beating in 2018, starting with the Cambridge Analytica scandal in March that revealed the social media network had allowed the political consulting firm to illicitly access the personal data of nearly 90 million users. The company took another hit in December, when it confessed to a software bug that might have given third-party apps access to photos of nearly 7 million Facebook users.
And then there were the “secret e-mails” released by a U.K. Parliamentary Committee that seemed to indicate the company gave preferred app developers special access to user data without consent.
The list went on, with all evidence pointing to a long history of Facebook mistreating users’ data even as it was asserting it was taking steps to protect it.
Zuckerberg’s latest declaration was a Dec. 28 message posted to Facebook (of course) in which he outlined a “personal challenge” to essentially clean up the mess the company has created. One of the things he said he was prioritizing in 2019 was “making sure people have control of their information.” He even outlined steps the company was taking to improve transparency when it comes to an individual’s right to know how his or her data is being used.
If we take him at his word, it sounds like a great start. But count me among the skeptical.
As part of my own New Year’s Resolution, I decided to change my relationship status with Facebook. I’m perfectly willing to share information when I derive a benefit from doing so—like letting a maps app access my location so I know what traffic is going to be like on the way home from the office—but when that benefit gets outweighed by concerns about what the company is doing with my data, it’s time to reevaluate.
The numbers say I’m not alone. According to statistics cited recently by the Wall Street Journal, the number of Facebook users in the United States and Canada has stayed essentially level since around the middle of 2016, ending years of growth.
I set out to delete Facebook from my devices, but ultimately decided we would just be on a “break” for a while after the app informed me my photos would be inaccessible and I would “no longer be able to keep in touch with” all of my Facebook friends. This guilt trip felt more than a little creepy, yet reminded me I had invested enough over the years to not say goodbye forever. At least not yet.
You’ve got until the end of year to get it together, Zuck, or else I’m dumping you for good.