Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, and the (Uncertain) Future of Online Privacy
This public-sourced case uses Facebook, the legendary social media platform, to unfold circumstances that allow an analysis of the firm's privacy risk around its marketing tools and use of collected consumer data. Although Facebook had made progress on providing users more transparency around how it operated, how policies were enforced, and how shared data has been collected since 2018, challenges persisted-most notably over how to deal with misinformation on Facebook's platform and what to do with efforts to regain public trust. Facebook needed access to user data in order to ensure its advertising revenue source remained profitable. The scandal around user data and Cambridge Analytica leaves the case open to exploring privacy policies, data use, and factors driving consumer concerns regarding their data. The case provides an overview of Facebook's platform and policies that can be used to discuss the responsibility future general managers have to consider privacy and transparency when using consumer data. Had Facebook crossed the line with users over data collection? And what, if anything, should be done about regulators' increasing interest in how the firm conducted business? Although this case was written and taught before the global COVID-19 pandemic struck, it provides an interesting contrast to consumers' attitudes toward trust and legitimacy issues before and after COVID-19.