In a 1,000-word op-ed published recently in The Wall Street Journal, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended the company's practices and addressed overwhelming claims that it collects user data and sells them to advertisers.
There's no way around it: The fact is, 2018 was a terrible year for Facebook. Users' trust dipped to record lows as the company faced one data scandal after another. At this point, there's more reason to leave Facebook than to remain using it, but Zuckerberg says it's all just one big misunderstanding.
In the article, titled "The Facts About Facebook," Zuckerberg calls Facebook as being about "people" and insists that users should trust it. More notably, the CEO appears to think that the reason for the distrust around Facebook is because of its targeted advertising practices. But according to him, people don't trust what they don't understand.
"This model can feel opaque, and we're all distrustful of systems we don't understand," said Zuckerberg. He continues: "We don't sell people's data, even though it's often reported that we do."
He goes on to say that, in fact, Facebook protects people's data.
"We have a strong incentive to protect people's information from being accessed by anyone else."
Facebook's Business Model
Zuckerberg also noted that Facebook being a free service has contributed to the confusion and complexity around its business model. In an ordinary transaction, he explained, a person pays a company for a product or service it provides.
Facebook has been the target of increased criticism over the methods through which it handles user data. It was kicked into the public scrutiny in early 2018 after it was revealed that it allowed political consultancy Cambridge Analytica to gain access to the data of 87 million people and did not disclose it to the public.
Much of its users were dismayed over the news, as was investors. Facebook's stock became increasingly low since last year, with shares having fallen around 20 percent since March 2017.
Zuckerberg's claim that Facebook doesn't sell user data has been met with skepticism from privacy advocates and experts alike.
"Rich user data is Facebook's most prized possession, and the company sure isn't throwing it in for free," said Stanford University's Michal Kosinski in a recent op-ed.
In any case, it's clear that Zuckerberg continues to his company's practice despite the overwhelming public backlash, not to mention the plethora of scandals centered on privacy, some of which it's still dealing with or have greatly damaged its reputation. One has to wonder just how many more scandals it would take before the public fully abandons the social media platform for good.
Do you think Facebook sells user data to advertisers? As always, if you have any thoughts, feel free to sound them off in the comments section below!