Should government #DeleteFacebook?

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gives then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry a tour of Facebook's new headquarters in Menlo Park, California, on June 23, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Department of State)
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gives then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry a tour of Facebook’s new headquarters in Menlo Park, California, on June 23, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Department of State)

In the aftermath of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, users of the social media network are becoming more aware, and alarmed, at how it turns member personal data into a hugely successful business model.

To protest the company’s approach to user privacy, many are choosing to #DeleteFacebook. While going through the deletion process, some are learning the extent of Facebook’s personal data collection practices. Perhaps a whimsical move, Elon Musk responded by deleting the SpaceX and Tesla Facebook pages.

Facebook has specific terms of service agreements for government pages — much of the legal aspects are governed by jurisdictional law — but it doesn’t leave many options.

Here’s an excerpt:

For federal government agencies, if You submit a written request to Facebook to block the display of any commercial advertisements, solicitations or links on your page, Facebook may so agree provided that it has decided to make such blocking technology generally available for pages. Your sole remedy for Facebook’s failure to implement such blocking technology shall be for You to terminate your use of pages.

While Facebook will no doubt reassess and revise its user terms and conditions, as April Glaser writes in Slate, it’s time for government to take note:

So sure, delete Facebook if you can. The company may not deserve your trust or your business, and you’ll have more free time to do other, better things. But if you can’t quit, that’s OK, too. That’s why #DeleteFacebook is the wrong message: It frames this as an issue of individual consumer choice. But it’s really a problem in search of a solution either from Facebook itself—changing its service so that its users really can feel safe—or from the government, which may need to step in and blow the whistle on Facebook’s entire business model.

Following Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation lead, of which enforcement starts May 2018, digital rights must become a priority for U.S. federal, state and local governments.

More important than re-evaluating social media strategy, #DeleteFacebook brings to light how government must pay attention to its own data practices, not just internally but, even more critically, with the companies it contracts. This includes free services, such as Facebook, NextDoor and other companies it relies on for community engagement. After deeper review, many will realize it’s time to delete some of its current terms of service agreements and start from scratch.

Given the need for governments to meet its community members where they are — leveraging social media for proactive engagement is a key component of this — it may not make sense to delete government pages just yet.

However, it’s now time for public leaders to familiarize themselves with Facebook’s government terms and conditions and learn more about — and appreciate — data governance issues, starting with GDPR.

About Luke Fretwell

Luke Fretwell is the founder of GovFresh and co-founder/CEO of ProudCity. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn or email at luke@govfresh.com.

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