- Silicon Valley billionaire Elon Musk deleted the verified Facebook pages for his rocket company SpaceX and electric carmaker Tesla, after promising to remove the pages if challenged by users amid Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, Reuters reported on Friday. Musk began the conversation about deleting the pages, which had millions of followers, after responding to a tweet from WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton using the #DeleteFacebook hashtag.
- Home speaker brand Sonos also cited the Cambridge Analytica controversy as the reason why it is suspending advertising on Facebook, The Drum reported. Sonos is also pulling ads from Google, YouTube, Twitter and the Facebook-owned Instagram until April 2, and will suspend its Facebook and Instagram accounts. The brand is donating the money that it spends on advertising on the platforms to RightsCon, a digital rights conference.
- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took out full-page ads in several major newspapers in the U.S. and the U.K. on Sunday, March 25 to apologize for what he called a “breach of trust” in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, according to CNN. The ad was placed in The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, the Sunday Times, The Observer, Sunday Mirror, Sunday Telegraph and others.
- In new allegations that surfaced over the weekend, an Ars Technica report claimed that Facebook scraped call, text message data for years from Android phones. Facebook has since denied the report, although Ars Technica, in the updated version of the original report, insists its own analysis shows some data collection happened in default mode and did not require an explicit opt-in.
As examples continue to stack up of Facebook's alleged lapses in handling user data, it is clear that growing segments of the media, consumers and marketers are scrutinizing the social media network more than ever before. In fact, a PR crisis that originated with the Cambridge Analytica scandal appears to be widening. It's not just the examples of potential malfeasance on Facebook's part — or, at the very least, negligence regarding user privacy — that's the problem. Facebook's response so far has fallen short of a sincere apology, with a blog post last week about the Cambridge Analytica issue putting much of the burden regarding protecting data on developers while Facebook's response to the Ars Technica report appears to get the facts wrong regarding the social media network's own data collection practices. Zuckerberg's full-page ad was an attempt to regain control of the narrative, but it was quickly drowned out by calls for the CEO to testify before congress about how it handles user data.
SpaceX, Tesla and Sonos are the latest brands distancing themselves from Facebook amid the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The brands are likely hoping that the move sends a strong message to consumers that they place a high value on privacy and transparency, and are committed to creating a safe, consumer-friendly digital ecosystem. Mozilla announced last week that it is pulling ads from Facebook, citing the platform’s need to strengthen the default settings for third-party apps.
While Mozilla has said it might consider returning to Facebook once the platform remedies the third-party app settings and Sonos said its plans to leave Facebook are temporary, it’s unclear what the long-term impact will be on Facebook’s advertising revenue. The company has faced considerable fallout from the scandal. Along with the trending #DeleteFacebook boycott push, the company is being investigated by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and several state AGs. Zuckerberg is also facing demands from the British Parliament and the U.S. House and Senate Judiciary committees, and the company’s stock has dropped.
By taking out a full-page ad apologizing for the data breach, Zuckerberg is likely hoping to regain some favor with users and advertisers. In a Facebook post last week addressing the controversy, Zuckerberg didn’t explicitly apologize, but outlined several proposed changes to the platform aimed at improving privacy and transparency, but advertisers continuing to pull out of the platform signal that it may not be enough to regain their trust. Facebook plans to audit certain third-party apps with access to large quantities of data and those with suspicious activity. The company will restrict developers’ access to data, limit data that users provide and require developers to sign a contract before they can ask users for access to certain data.