The Brand Trust Report is an annual study of brands, according to the perceived trust in that brand as far as usage of its products or services is concerned. The report includes various categories, and has been topped by Samsung for the second year in a row. Google, ranked 18 overall, is the highest ranked internet brand in India, thanks to its becoming the first place that most people go to, while searching for information on the internet.
However, what comes as a surprise is the second-highest ranked internet brand on the trust report: Facebook. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and privacy concerns that have emerged around Facebook, it’s hard to believe that Facebook is the second most trusted internet brand in India. According to the report, the survey was “carried out during November 2017-January 2018 and did not take into account the recent reports of data breach and privacy involving Facebook.”
The Cambridge Analytica scandal
Those reports of data breach and privacy violations are significant. While the effects of the Cambridge Analytica scandal are more widespread in the United States, Indian users have been less affected. However, there are continuing reports that Cambridge Analytica had clients even in India including some major political parties in the country, which means that Indian users could still be affected by the data breach. Additionally, Facebook’s response to the issues have been ridiculed, primarily because it took far too long for the company to admit its role in the incidents, and take steps to rectify the problems.
There are plenty of other reasons why Facebook being considered ‘trusted’ is met with mixed reactions, and goes far beyond just the scandal that proves how careless Facebook is with user data. Facebook has been collecting user data for years, and then sending targeted advertising straight to users. Conspiracy theories and wild ideas even suggest that Facebook is listening to every word you say using the microphone on your smartphone; people placing orders for Kashmiri Kahwa at a restaurant mysteriously start seeing ads for Kashmiri Kahwa on their Facebook apps. All of these patterns were questioned by authorities during the testimony at the US Congress recently.
The website isn’t the product, you are
Facebook is, after all, providing its key product free of cost to users. The service does not have a user fee, the apps are free to download and we’re arguably getting a great service without paying a dime. But then again, a lot of people argue that the service isn’t the product, the user is. Facebook provides users an ostensibly free service by which it can collect all kinds of data on the likes, dislikes and usage patterns of billions of people around the world. As seen in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the data was used to target ads politically and possibly influence the US Presidential Election in 2016.
On a smaller scale, that data can be used to effectively advertise to you. It can be argued that you’re giving away your data voluntarily and allowing yourself to be advertised to in exchange for a great online service that helps you keep in touch with friends, family and your interests. But at what point is the data collection okay? And just how much are you really giving away? The same goes with Google; there’s far too much being given away.
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While trust might be measured by how much is shared with a brand or how much a set of individuals or society depend on that brand, the traditional meaning of the word makes the idea of trust in a brand like Facebook entirely laughable. You might be giving your data away voluntarily or involuntarily, and you might be using the product knowing full well what it entails. But to suggest that Facebook is a trusted brand even if you discount the recent data privacy issues is a complete joke.