Mark Zuckerberg will testify before Congress on April 11. It’s going to be a big day for Mark. It’s going to be an even bigger day regarding the future of data-driven advertising, data-driven marketing, and data-driven decision making. Because of Facebook’s scale, Mark’s testimony is likely to have an impact on how much (and what kind of) data we can use to train AI systems and statistical machine learning models going forward. (See: All Your Data Are Belong to Us).
April 11 may mark (no pun intended) the beginning of a governmental war on progress we haven’t seen in modern times. After all, the government won’t just regulate Facebook; it will regulate the collection and use of data writ large.
Sweeping data collection and use regulation are probably necessary, but government regulation cannot be written as a knee-jerk reaction to third-party abuse of a four-year-old, business-to-business policy Facebook shut down three years ago. (I’ve done my best to explain this, see: “What Facebook Data Did They Get and What Did They Do With It?”
Make no mistake: I am not a Facebook apologist. Facebook (FB) got itself into this mess, and it will have to get itself out of it. That said, I could not resist the temptation to imagine what I might do if I were in Facebook’s shoes. So, as a starting point for your own “If I were Facebook” fantasy congressional hearing, here’s my list of the five things Facebook must do right now. (We can deal with fake news, tribalism, confirmation bias, social media addiction and other issues another time.)
1. Make a Data Privacy Button
Build and deploy a “Make my data private now” button and pin it to the top of everyone’s newsfeed for the foreseeable future. Under that button, explain what “Make my data private now” will mean in simple, easy-to-understand terms. For example: You will still see ads, you will still have a newsfeed, but nothing about you will be shared with any company outside of Facebook. You, our beloved and cherished Facebook user, will need to find other ways to login to all the apps you used Facebook Login to sign up for. If you press this button, no third parties will be able to access any of your data until you personally change your settings, which you are under no obligation to do – ever.