Facebook users rethink attitude to sharing data after Cambridge Analytica breach

The public and advertisers alike are concerned by the data breach, but ISBA says Facebook is taking steps to rapidly address the issues after a “constructive and challenging” meeting.


Facebook users are rethinking how much data they share with the social network, and other online services such as Twitter and Instagram, in light of the revelations about a data breach involving Cambridge Analytica.

A survey of 1,000 consumers conducted for Marketing Week by research agency Toluna finds the scandal has prompted 34.4% of those questioned to update their privacy settings on Facebook, while 7.66% claim to have deleted their account.

According to Statista, Facebook had a little more than 38 million users in the UK last year, which means if the 7.66% figure were repeated across its user base 2.9 million would have deleted their account in the last week and 13 million updated their privacy settings.

Data from Hitwise shows online searches for the phrase “delete Facebook” have increased 423% since 18 March. Plus a #deleteFacebook hashtag was among the top topics on Twitter on Tuesday (20 March), with WhatsApp founder Brian Acton, whose company was bought by Facebook for $16bn in 2014, joining the chorus. It should be noted some of those tweets were from people saying they would not delete their account.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told The New York Times he had not seen a “meaningful number of people” deleting their accounts, although he did not comment on what a meaningful number would be.

There are other repercussions for Facebook from the data breach. The Toluna survey finds 48.8% of respondents are “much warier” of the type of content they post and share on Facebook, while a further 33.6% are “somewhat warier”. Only 17.6% say it has had no impact on the type of information they will post.

And in a sign the scandal is impacting consumers’ views of data sharing more widely, nearly three-quarters (73.7%) of respondents say they will also be more wary of sharing information with other tech companies such as Twitter, Instagram and Google.

The scandal is also having an impact in the marketing industry. While only Mozilla, the company behind the Firefox browser, and Germany’s Commerzbank have come out publicly to say they are stopping spend until they get assurances over data security, others have raised concerns and UK trade body ISBA has met with Facebook executives today (23 March) to air the issues.

READ MORE: Mozilla becomes first brand to pull ads from Facebook following Cambridge Analytica scandal

ISBA has described that meeting as “constructive and challenging” but says says it welcomes the steps Facebook is making to address public and advertiser concerns. Those include:

  • investigating apps that had access to large amounts of information before changes to the platform in 2014 that reduced data access;
  • telling people if their data has been misused;
  • turning off access of unused apps;
  • restricting login data to more basic information unless apps have approval;
  • encouraging users to manage the apps the use through clearer privacy settings;
  • and rewarding people who find vulnerabilities.

“It is clear from our meeting today that this is a priority for Facebook and that they now have a lot of work to do as they commence and conduct their forensic audit. Facebook has committed to work closely with ISBA to share developments and actions from this audit as and when they occur,” says ISBA in a statement.

“This issue is a key priority for us and we are committed to keeping up the pressure on Facebook to deliver clarity and action.”

Facebook has also committed to face-to-face meetings with brands, as well as “regular and open dialogue” with ISBA.