Facebook Is in Hot Water; Cambridge Analytica Mess Boiling Over into Law Suit

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I take no pleasure in bashing Facebook. Personally, never had any use for it; always considered it a giant frat party. But saw its value for other people. Unfortunately, in today’s society when leaders enable mediocrity in themselves and their staff, we, the end users suffer. I don’t intend to talk about FB in every blog, but it is news right now. Point in fact, here is a press release from this morning, with reaction to the current Facebook/ Cambridge Analytica mess from Illinois, the Land of Lincoln (speaking of leaders…)

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Illinois State’s Attorney Foxx Files Lawsuit Against Facebook and Cambridge Analytica

March 26, 2018

Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly M. Foxx today announced that her office has filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against Facebook, Inc. (“Facebook”) and SCL Group Limited and Cambridge Analytica LLC (“Cambridge Analytica”) over Cambridge Analytica’s improper harvesting of Facebook user data and Facebook’s failure to adequately protect that data. This resulted in the exploitation of personal data of 50 million Facebook users with the express purpose of influencing the 2016 presidential election.

State’s Attorney Foxx, on behalf of the People of the State of Illinois, filed the complaint in the Chancery Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County. The complaint raises claims under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.

“Cambridge Analytic deliberately misled Facebook users so it could build psychological profiles of the user and their friends, and Facebook did not stop it,” said State’s Attorney Foxx. “This blatant deception violated Illinois law and more importantly violated the privacy of Illinois residents. Cambridge Analytica and Facebook must be held accountable for their actions.”

The suit alleges Cambridge Analytica used fraudulent and deceptive practices to gain information about 50 million Facebook users by mining – without users’ knowledge – information about every Facebook “friend” of people who took an online “personality quiz.” This improperly obtained data was used to create “psychographic profiles” on millions of American voters, with the purpose of influencing the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

The suit further alleges that Facebook engaged in deceptive practices by maintaining formal polices and representing to the public that strict limitations and protocols on data gathering were in place, while knowingly allowing app developers, including Cambridge Analytica, to accumulate and mine data vastly in excess of those policies.

Upon learning of Cambridge Analytica’s actions, Facebook failed to take adequate corrective action or disclose the violation of its privacy policies to consumers. Its response was limited to a single private request to Cambridge Analytica to delete the data. Facebook took no further action, nor did they notify the “friends” whose data was accessed, until the public revelation of the breach in the media, at which point it finally and for the first time suspended Cambridge Analytica’s Facebook account.

The lawsuit seeks civil penalties and fines under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.

The People are seeking representation by the outside law firm Edelson PC in this litigation.  Edelson would work on a contingency basis and its fees will be paid from any recovery generated by this lawsuit.

A copy of the complaint is available here.

Ouch Facebook. I don’t think you will be getting any likes on behalf of the People of the State of Illinois” I also have read that the Federal Trade Commission is investigating FB privacy practices.

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This is What Mark Zuckerberg Had to Say to the World

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FB data

Facebook has been in the news a great deal this week, so much so that I found myself writing blogs two days in a row. And now in this third day, I will give it up to Zuck himself. The guiding mind of Facebook made the rounds of talk shows and interview tables to shed some behind the scenes looks at how the-powers-that-be at FB came upon and addressed the recent data theft (mis-use?) by 3rd parties.

You may have seen some of the sound bites on TV or heard on radio. Or read in the media. Here is a transcript of a 20-minute interview, which was conducted by Kara Swisher and Kurt Wagner of Recode. (Thank you Recode!) See for yourself if you are satisfied with Facebook’s response.

Swisher gets quickly to what I think is the point of all this, that these geniuses at Facebook wanted to play in the real world but didn’t expect the bad guys to target them. She brings up the idealistic theme at Facebook.

KS: Open and sharing, and it was helpful to growing your platform, obviously. What’s in the mentality of your engineers of Facebook where you didn’t suspect this could be a problem?

Zuckerberg deflected that the engineers were solely at fault.

MZ: You know, frankly, I just got that wrong. I was maybe too idealistic on the side of data portability, that it would create more good experiences. And it created some, but I think what the clear feedback was from our community was that people value privacy a lot more. And they would rather have their data locked down and be sure that nothing bad will ever happen to it than be able to easily take it and have social experiences in other places.

KS: I get that. 2014 you absolutely did that. But I’m talking about the … You know — and I’ve argued with [Facebook executives] about this — this anticipation of problems, of possible bad actors on this platform. Do you all have enough mentality, or do you not see … I want to understand what happens within Facebook that you don’t see that this is so subject to abuse. How do you think about that, and what is your responsibility?

MZ: Yeah. Well, I hope we’re getting there. I think we remain idealistic, but I think also understand what our responsibility is to protect people now.

Do you feel safer now? I don’t. Read the entire interview and decide for yourself.

Peter Parker/Spiderman said it best (well, Stan Lee…): With great power comes great responsibility.

I think Facebook continued to think of this all still being a giant frat party. Time to grow up boys. Some bullies outsmarted you and took away your lunch money. The whole world is watching how you handle this.

This Is What You Can Do to Make Yourself Feel Safer on Facebook

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The Quick and the Dead

Facebook is something to be scared of (paraphrasing the “Those men are something to be scared of” scene from a really great little movie called The Quick & the Dead). Unless you have been living out on the prairie, you are aware that data mining as conducted by Facebook is now being attacked from all quarters. What was supposed to bring us closer together has in fact blown us apart.

Our “contract” with Facebook to do no harm with our personal data has been torn to shreds as we have found breaches (let’s not play semantics FB management) and outright sale of data to questionable 3rd parties who have used “likes,” “wants,” and even “personality games” against us.

Not talking about seeing diaper ads because you had a baby shower. I am talking about feeding you targeted fake news to incite you to go over a line you might not have.

Here is some review material if indeed you don’t know, from yesterday’s blog https://amssvs.com/2018/03/20/which-is-worse-facebooks-poor-stewardship-of-our-data-or-its-lack-of-transparency/

What can you do? Close the door on Facebook? Not everyone can. There are support groups you may need for your well-being. There are far-flung family most easily reachable on FB.

At the end of my blog, I suggested that people and businesses consider other platforms. Let Facebook know you are unhappy by reducing engagement. Oh, they are “aware” of discontent among the masses, but they won’t feel it until the algorithms show massive nose dive of engagement.

The other option is to reduce your electronic footprint on FB itself. Don’t feed the beast any more info about you.

David Nield, writing for Gizmodo posted “Here’s How to Share as Little Data as Possible Without Deleting Facebook” yesterday. It is a great step by step walk through to clean up loose ends and tie up others to make you a lean, mean fighting machine against Facebook’s rape of your private data for financial gain.

Don’t forget that. This isn’t like a hacker stole credit card info from a business. Facebook sold access to your life. And apparently did little once the transgressions were made known.

Nield writes that deleting data from your Facebook profile “doesn’t necessarily mean Facebook will forget it ever existed—in fact it may well keep your data internally until you actually delete your account in full. However, clearing up your profile will stop apps you connect in the future from accessing it. You should also vow to ignore Facebook’s prompts to add more details to your profile from this point on.”

Uninstall Facebook from your phones and tablets, is another Nield suggestion. This is a great post with clear directions. Check it out.

Nield makes this one other point that I wish to emphasize (hopefully without exceeding allowable quoting from an article) “The now infamous Cambridge Analytica data harvesting happened through a third-party Facebook app—in this case a personality test—and we’ve warned you many times to keep these kind of connections down to a minimum.”

stripe“The more apps and sites you connect to your Facebook account, the more exposed you are.”

The more exposed you are.

 Who would have thought something as cute and cuddly as Facebook would turn out to be as dangerous as mogwai fed after midnight?  

 

Which Is Worse: Facebook’s Poor Stewardship of Our Data or Its Lack of Transparency?

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For me, the cynically dark phrase “too big to fail” comes to mind in describing Facebook management’s precarious position in light of the current Cambridge Analytica News. “It’s not a data breach.” You say tomato and I say BS. Compound this situation with the targeted disinformation campaign lodged by Russian hackers to manipulate Facebook groups into organizing divisive political protests. Something bad happened during Facebook’s stewardship of our info, that we willingly gave them permission to collect.

Facebook was too big and powerful and too well run to make mistakes.

Just look at the bullet points of this CNBC article:

  •  Facebook’s reaction to a year of scandal has vacillated between defensive cluelessness and aloof silence.
  • Users are getting the message that information they post on Facebook can be used in ways they did not intend, and usage is starting to decline.
  • Meanwhile, executives are selling shares like crazy, including a plan by Mark Zuckerberg to sell almost $13 billion worth of shares by mid-2019.

Don’t just read the article, watch the video clip as well.

These areas should give readers and advertisers cause for concern. If you can’t trust Facebook’s word that your personal info is safe. If you can’t trust Facebook to own up/remedy quickly any breaches.  How can you trust anything FB tells you about reach and engagement data?

Ian MalcolmI “became an adult” during the Cold War. “Trust no one” and all that. In fact, I never had a FB page until I needed it to join Facebook groups. But, I never trusted this whole data mining / re-selling is good for business. (See Dr Ian Malcolm quote).

Anything and everything during the Cold War that could be turned into a weapon would be. It’s a lesson forgotten that painfully needs to be retaught. Data may be coin of the realm. But it is also power. And power corrupts in the wrong hands. As we are seeing in the headlines.

So, what happens now? Life goes on, but there is a price to be paid.

Which Is Worse: Facebook’s Poor Stewardship of our Data or Its Lack of Transparency? You decide.

I am advising my clients to scale down on FB and use an alternate means of engaging with readers & customers.

Small Business Saturday, You Got This

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Total reported spending reached an estimated $15.4 billion at independent retailers and restaurants for 2016’s version of Small Business Saturday. Woohoo!!! What will Nov. 24, 2017’s edition reveal as consumers are once again urged to shop small and visit the “mom & pop” locally-owned stores on Main Street USA?

That is up to you. Will you your small business be ready to engage with customers? Do you even know which customers to target with your ads? Hopefully your Social Media Mangers does. If not, I’ll give you a hint.

The 20-something’s

New survey from Coupons.com reports that during the 2017 holiday season this group plans to shop in-store more than any other age group.

Jeanette Pavini, Coupons.com savings expert reveals that “20-somethings are savvy, using technology to find the best deals, and knowing not every great deal is online.”

She should know, as understanding how consumers are motivated during key shopping seasons provides Coupons.com with data to translate into more relevant coupons at the right time.

And when you put a Mastercard survey’s results stacked against this one, it should be a great Saturday. Spending growth at mom and pop shops has outpaced that of the big chains in both of the past two years.

Why?

When Americans aren’t shopping online, it’s because they’re looking for more personal connections — and the advice they can receive from local SMBs. That’s the word from Sarah Quinlan, Mastercard, Inc. Senior Vice President.

Tech, on-line shopping, mobile apps, etc. may indeed be the wave of the future for mass shopping, but on an individual level– the community level– chatting with the clerk still holds weight. And when the consumer actually has the opportunity to speak with the store owner, well, that is, as they say money in the pocket.

Will you be working your products & services this Saturday?

Showing Some Respect for Virtual Assistants

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Absence {distance} makes the heart grow fonder— except apparently in the case of Virtual Assistants from what I read in one social media group’s postings recently. Out of sight and out of mind. Check this out for yourself and tell me if Virtual Assistants in this thread are being treated less like fellow entrepreneurs and more like commodities (I deleted pictures and names of the commenters because I did not secure permission to quote them).

Doctor’s note? Time-waster? Corpo-rats? Common excuse? Needing to go to the hospital is cause for being fired? I found that very harsh. Especially considering some people who leave the corporate world to start their own biz do so because of unsympathetic, unfeeling treatment from that corporate world when they had a personal situation interfere with work.

The question then is: Social Media Managers, when you get busy, where do you turn for help? Virtual Assistants! But, do you hire the services of a Virtual Assistant as an employee, or as a contractor? Consider this additional question, are you an employee of your small business client, or are you contractor?

For answers, I sought out the comments of Social Media Managers within Liz Benny’s “Social Media Monkey” closed page group. Their responses:

“Corpo-rats LOL love it ha-ha. Yes, def too harsh, she is not an employee, but a VA. So yeah, would not get rid of her, I would wish her a good recovery and then make contact again to move on together. You’ve got to be there for your team if you want them to be there for you!” — Federica Marchesini of MJ Social Party Ltd., based in Perth, and serving all of Australia.

Interesting approach. The SMM/VA relationship being less owner/employee and more of a team effort.

“That is tough. Sometimes life happens. Business owners forget that a VA is a contracted business owner – they are not an employee. Many VA’s can do lots of different tasks but they aren’t mind readers – two-way communication is the key.” — Sharon Baillie, speaking from first-hand knowledge as she operates both a social media agency Basically Social in New South Wales, Australia and a VA business Baillie Admin Services.

A virtual assistant (VA) handles daily clerical, scheduling, and technical portions of a business that need to be kept operating smoothly. Virtual assistants work remotely from locations of their own choosing, anywhere in the world.

“I agree with the third commenter in the initial post. I would make note and maybe consider this a potential warning sign, but also just proceed with caution going forward. I agree that these people are being overly harsh. If not three strikes before they’re out, I would hope for two! Things happen!” — Jacquelyn Gutc, of Magpie Media, serving the Detroit area and beyond.

Things happen. You have hired a human VA over a bot VA because you desire the human interaction, you want to set personal parameters based on how you operate your business and the services you offer, not factory default programming.

“I think they are being too hard on them. They are VA’s, they are not employees. My process when I hire a VA is this: I am very specific in the title of what the position is for and how much per hour. That helps eliminate people that are too expensive for my position. I hire one VA for each duty, so I don’t expect a VA to do everything. I am very specific with the description of background/experience I’m looking for and very detailed about the work and number of hours. I ask them to type a word, any word, like “apple” in the subject line to make sure they are reading everything. This eliminates 30-40% of people that respond.

I will usually look at 2-3 people I would hire and give them a short test to do something in the job description and then I judge how well they followed instructions, the quality of the work etc. When hired, I create a SOP or Standard Operating Procedure of the step by step job process. I also establish number of hours and when they will work those hours. If you do all of this, it helps you get a good fit. Things happen, so I would reach out and ask if everything is okay. I wouldn’t be harsh, and I would never ask for a doctor’s note. Just the way I work with VA’s.” Diane Leone of Leone Social, serving St. Augustine Beach, FL and beyond

And for a final word, an actual VA…….

“As a VA myself – I’m a business owner NOT an employee; if I was asked for a doctor’s note, that would be MY red flag to cut ties with that client. Having said that, I would let the client know if I wasn’t able to get their work done on schedule, I would reach out to another VA to help in the meantime until I was back on my feet. I have found that VA’s are a supportive group of people. You NEED to have emergency plans in place when you’re a business owner – not just a VA but for any business.

The only thing this person should be asking is if they are ok, and how long do they think they might be off for. If it’s an extended period then fine, look for another VA so you can meet your deadlines, but this illness may just be a one-off occurrence that just happens. Thank God, this guy is not a client of mine. His attitude is, quite frankly, appalling. Would he ask his accountant or lawyer for a doctor’s note? I’m betting he wouldn’t have the nerve. Pleased to see Anthony that you think these guys were being ‘unjustly’ harsh.”  Carolyn White, of Office Advantage, also serving Australia from New South Wales.

To be, or not to be a Virtual Assistant–that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (harsh clients) … or…

What do you think?

Social Media Gone Wrong Kills Small Business

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Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Case in point, the new found “voice” of the people, using the power of social media to make their disapproval as “customers” powerfully effective by destroying an innocent woman’s life. Over the Oct. 14-16 weekend a firestorm was ignited on Facebook when the daughter of coffee shop owner Kato Mele on HER PERSONAL page expressed HER PERSONAL opinion that the Lynn Ma business would never host a ‘‘Coffee with a Cop’’ event.

{Coffee With A Cop is a nationwide project seeking to build trust between police departments and citizens that they serve.}

Being that she was Manager, many people incorrectly assumed that this was an ownership decision and rapid-fire comments and criticism flew, ending with her saying stupid, hateful, vicious things like police were “bullies and racists.”

Upset responders, some quite possibly hiding under the smokescreen of internet anonymity (bots & fake names) shot back with death threats, sexual taunts and un-called for boycotts of the White Rose Coffeehouse.

Just as social media can be a highly positive force for social engagement with customers of a small business, it can also be bastardized into a destructive virus attacking indiscriminately.

The people with the pitchforks insured the coffee shop’s painful death by attacking the small business.

According to an article in the Boston Globe:

They got into the cafe’s Facebook page, leaving hundreds of bad reviews to drive its five-star rating down. Mele’s daughter received rape threats. On Monday, the cafe was slammed with abusive callers, saying horrific things: They hoped Mele and her daughter are ruined, that they never work again, that her daughter drowns. An especially charming bunch of them, parroting a line from the hateful website that played on “coffee with a cop,” said they wanted to have coffee with a c-word.

Regular customers stayed away, whether by fear of attacks on them or because they were misled into believing it was company policy. Their lack of strong support helped nail the doors shut. Nobody apparently bothered to check the facts. Shoot first, ask questions later.

Had the protestors followed rule of law, that someone is innocent until proven guilty, they would have seen that the owner:

  1. ordered her daughter to take down the page,
  2. sent the police a personal apology,
  3. tagged the remarks as ‘‘distasteful, biased and hateful,’’
  4. invited officers to the shop for coffee as a sign they were indeed welcome,
  5. And— fired her daughter.

What Should/Could Be Done?

If an employee of your business was rude & crude to a customer, who then complained on social media, an acceptable response from your business would be an apology, a come back to our biz and we will comp your meal, or outright termination of the employee. And most customers would be satisfied.

Not in this case. Customer flow has trickled down to nothing and as of press time the owner is reported to have decided to close down, packing up perishable inventory for donations to a food shelter. Her dream turned into a nightmare.

And customers have had “their” place taken away by “non-customers.”  The power of social media gone wrong.

What could you do to avoid the damage? Advise employees that although they are free to express their opinions on their social media outlets, do not mention your business or represent an opinion to be representative of the business.

What could you do to contain the damage? Short of having a public relations team or a competent social media manager, depend on the good will, and support of your customers.

Word to the wise, continually build strong customer engagement with your customer base. They are your last, best defense on the social media battlefield.

{Note: Although the offending Facebook comments have been deleted, the Daily Mail managed to dig some up if you want to read what started the fireworks.}