Facebook came under fire earlier this week after it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm, had gotten access to data from over 50 million Facebook user profiles through a research project conducted by a Cambridge University academic.
Since then, the #deletefacebook movement has taken off on social media, and several countries – including Canada – have launched investigations into Facebook’s handling of user data.
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The findings of the survey also state that twice as many Canadians (32 per cent) believe Facebook has a negative impact on society than those who believe it has a positive one, and 10 per cent of those polled plan to abandon the platform, at least temporarily.
Furthermore, respondents gave Facebook a much higher “unfavourability rating” (33 per cent) than they offered the other four tech companies included in the study; Apple (20 per cent), Amazon (12 per cent), Microsoft (11 per cent) and Google (10 per cent).
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“It seems like this time there’s been a real reckoning with Facebook,” said Alex Hanna, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto and a social media expert, told Global News in an interview.
It’s important to note that, according to the findings, Facebook was the least-well regarded company before the Cambridge Analytica story broke earlier this week.
Hanna went on to say that while data collection is a well-known part of using social media, the latest incident has really “struck a nerve” with users because it took the form of political advertising.
In recent days, however, several Facebook users have found that upon downloading their Facebook data archive (an option Facebook prompts to anyone deleting their account), phone call and text messaging data of Android device users was recorded during certain periods of time.
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Facebook has responded to the reports, stating that individuals whose phone calls and text messages were collected provided consent for this feature when downloading the app, and uploading contact data can be turned off in the platform’s settings any time.
However, several tech websites reported that relaxed data sharing rules for Google’s Android platform, in place until 2015-2016, allowed Facebook to collect this data simply by obtaining consent from users to access their contact lists.
As the Cambridge Analytica saga has unfolded over the past month, Canadians’ public perception of the company has plummeted.
According to the survey, respondents who’ve never used the platform at all were 46 per cent more likely to have a worsened opinion of Facebook due to the scandal.
Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg has added his voice to the headlines following mounting pressure from governments and users.
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Zuckerberg has completed multiple interviews and took out a full-page ad in several British and American newspapers apologizing for what he admits amounted to a misuse of consumer data.
It’s unclear what the impact of the latest round of accusations will be on Facebook, or how users will weigh the pros and cons of remaining on the platform.
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While experts have offered a palatable solution for concerned Facebook users, it may be easier said than done.
Gerald Kane, an associate professor at Boston College who’s been teaching about social media for a decade, said previously in an interview with Global News that the simplest way to avoid Facebook’s data collection practices is “everybody stop using Facebook.”
“Facebook knows that their business model depends on your willingness to trust them with your data,” explained Kane. He also stated, however, that he believes Facebook is up to the challenge of addressing these concerns.
The Angus Reid Institute conducted two online surveys, the first between February 28 and March 2, 2018, among a representative randomized sample of 1,501 Canadian adults, and the second from March 21 – 22, 2018, among a representative randomized sample of 1,509 Canadian adults. Both surveys were conducted on the Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, probability samples of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. The survey was self-commissioned and paid for by ARI.