At this point, any feigned outrage over Facebook’s latest privacy setting indiscretion is futile. Most recently, Facebook stuck to plan by using its favorite shock and awe tactic of making the change unannounced. True to script, the media jumped all over it, and they temporarily rolled back the changes to address the public’s concerns. However, just as Facebook quietly reintroduced Open Graph after the furor had died down, you can expect the same to happen with these new application permissions.
In order to take charge of this privacy issue and to prove Facebook takes its user’s privacy seriously, the social-networking site will need to successfully fulfill three missions: act with transparency, educate its users, and emphasize the importance of the user having complete control of their own data. Although applied to Facebook’s latest gaffe, the steps in question should be applied to all companies working in the digital sphere.
Acting with transparency
Much of the shock in regard to Facebook’s shift in privacy settings is due to the surreptitious and sudden manner in which the changes were implemented. Public relations teams must advertise and discuss major changes before they happen, instead of trying to put out fires afterwards.
If Facebook believes a new policy will not adversely affect its users, it needs to spell that out clearly in a message to all users. There is massive outrage when Facebook changes the layout on profile pages, so when a privacy setting changes the uproar is only amplified. These days, credibility is built on trust, and if that trust falters with consumers, the company in question will falter as well.
Emphasizing user control
People become anxious when they feel powerless to control their own life, digital or otherwise. If you can assure users that ultimate control of their profile and their information remains in their hands, you will go a long way towards a sustained good faith relationship with users. Prioritizing user control should always be the center of any changes.
The bottom line is that Facebook needs to act with much more delicacy when it comes to privacy issues. While the social networking giant may feel it has the heft to make changes as it sees fit, most companies are not in that position. Further, an angry contingent of Facebook users could become a massive headache for a company preparing for possibly the largest IPO of all time.