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The Risks of Changing Facebook’s Security Standards

In the FastCompany article “Facebook Locks Up Its User Safety With Global Advisory Board”, the author talks about Facebooks plans to drastically improve safety standards on the social media platform.

Facebook greatly announced in a press release this morning that it plans to set up a Global Advisory Board on Security.
There can be no doubt that online safety is of fundamental importance for a social networking site. In the German speaking market (Germany, Austria, Switzerland), the social media market leader has ever since been a site called StudiVz. In terms of its functions and user groups, this platform seems like a copy of Facebook adapted to the local market conditions.

About two years ago, negative press about personal information being passed to third parties have led to a fundamental shift in the highly private sphere wary German consumer market. All of a sudden, users changed to invented profile names on the site and by that taking the essence from the tool- to find each other and connect. The medium suffered irreparable damage by these shifts. It appears to be only a matter of time until Facebook will take over market leadership.

Now, could this scenario happen to Facebook as well? I don’t think so. There have been similar issues about privacy in the past, but it does not seem to affect the US user environment. In spite of a high general awareness of potential misuse of private data, people still keep posting highly personal information as well as pictures on the site. There seems to be a large difference in consumer culture regarding private sphere.

With Facebook expanding largely internationally and soon reaching 350,000,000 users, these consumer insights undoubtedly have to be taken into consideration. Nevertheless, the company has be careful not to create more problems than before through the enhancement of safety standards. First of all, the security deficit might not be perceived as such by the current Facebook audience. Large-scale PR announcements might therefore evoke an unnecessary suspiciousness among users: “What is wrong with the current Facebook security structure?” Secondly, the past has shown that users are highly attached to the current system of the site and any changes in layout have usually led to a large uproar.

Facebook therefore has to carefully think about how to go about changes in its safety standards as well as how to communicate them. There has to be a fine balance in being more appealing to international markets without jeopardizing its value in its home market.

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