Jason Chaffetz: Time for Facebook to do an 'about face' and regain the confidence of its users

It’s time for Mark Zuckerberg to do an “about face” at Facebook. He has lost the confidence of consumers and attracted the attention of too many regulators. Without significant changes to the platform, Zuckerberg risks serious lawsuits, a mass consumer exodus, and unwanted new regulations.

Facebook originated as a creepy way to rate the looks of college women. Today, the mainstream platform’s vulnerability to invasions of privacy and its inability to secure users’ data threatens everyone with a profile on the granddaddy of social media platforms.

This weakness has attracted the attention of regulators around the world as the personal identifiable information of individuals is seemingly insecure.  Much of the information you agree to give Facebook has uses and implications you may not even realize.

Coupled with less-than-straightforward interactions with regulators, including the FTC, and the Europeans, the young entrepreneur, multi billionaire’s charm is wearing off.  Mark Zuckerberg is using a technology older regulators and elected officials don’t understand.  He used to succeed because his phenomenal success created awe and the platform helped win elections.  But things are changing.

Regulators and elected officials will have no problem understanding the loss of privacy, invasion into minors’ lives, and the torrent of lawsuits coming Facebook’s way.  They will also understand the political push in support of one party to the detriment of the other.  This uneven hand and political favoritism has consequences that invite regulation and legislation.

Congress and the regulators are no doubt slow and naive, but if Facebook does the right thing it can continue to thrive. 

Additionally, lack of privacy will catch up to Facebook.  Current law allows a 13-year-old to enter into a user agreement with Facebook.  The minor trades their privacy for information and the platform.  Facebook can then monetize and sell that information and contact for a remarkable profit.  Creepy.

Facebook at one point was accessing Android call and message history for data mining.  How is it not creepy to be looking at people’s information like this?  Not to mention looking at the information of teenage kids.

But what happens with facial recognition, artificial intelligence, and other technological wonders when the minor wants to exit the agreement and return to anonymity?  There is no way to put that genie back in the bottle.

Fortunately for Facebook, Congress is naive. The European regulators and legislators, however, are more aggressive.  They are moving to rein in the omnipresent Facebook which comprises half of the duopoly controlling 75 percent of digital advertising across the pond.

Time for Facebook to do an “about face” and regain the confidence of its users.  Congress and the regulators are no doubt slow and naive, but if Facebook does the right thing it can continue to thrive.  Ironically, that requires prioritizing privacy, protecting children, and cooperating with regulators. All of which are antithetical to the founding and core of Facebook.