Out of all the tech giants, Facebook is the bad guy. Amazon is a definite contender because of the allegations about how they treat their workers, but ask people what they think of Mark Zuckerburg and you wouldn’t be surprised to see a disapproving face.
On the other hand, Google continues to slide under the radar. They collect a huge amount of data but they also provide us with a number of useful (or even essential) services so we try and forget about all the information they have about our browsing patterns, location history and more.
Google are just as, if not more, dangerous than Facebook in terms of the scale of their data collection. However, they haven’t made a major blunder and breached user trust. Well, not yet anyway…
So, why do we trust Google and mistrust Facebook?
Well, it’s mainly due to Facebook’s one big and widely reported mistake: the Cambridge Analytica scandal. This has since spawned a vast range of commentary, including a chilling Netflix documentary called The Great Hack which revealed the inner workings of Cambridge Analytica and how they micro-targeted Facebook users to influence political campaigns.
Cambridge Analytica worked with Donald Trump’s election team and the Brexit campaign in order to collect personal data, profile voters and target them with adverts. The Guardian estimates that more than 50 million people had their Facebook profiles harvested – a personal data breach on an unprecedented scale.
How did they collect data on this scale? It was collected through an app called thisisyourdigitallife, a personality test which was built by developer Aleksandr Kogan. Although those who took the test agreed to have their data collected for academic use, the app also collected the data of the test-takers Facebook friends. This meant that from the 270,000 or so people who opted in, Kogan could access the data of millions.
Kogan then shared this data with Cambridge Analytica, which Facebook has claimed was a direct breach of Facebook’s terms of service which state that developers cannot transfer collected data to advertising or data companies. However, Kogan has argued that Facebook knew exactly what the app was doing and believes they have used him as a scapegoat for their own wrongdoings.
This has not been the tech giant’s only mistake when it comes to the misuse of data, but it is the biggest one and the one that tarnished their reputation. Since then, users have not trusted Facebook in the same way and who can blame them?
Related article: How Safe is Facebook in 2019?
Another thing to bear in mind is that Facebook can just be seen as one social media platform and one that not everyone needs to be a part of.
However, lest we forget, Facebook Inc. also own Instagram and WhatsApp, two platforms that many people, especially the younger generation, use on a regular basis.
So to truly boycott Facebook as a company, you would need to stop using Instagram and WhatsApp. However, even those who know that Facebook owns these other platforms are likely to be more cautious on Facebook itself and not so much on the others. This is because the bond of trust between user and provider hasn’t been broken.
We rely on Google a lot. Although people like to discuss the addictive power of social media, and there is likely a great deal of truth in this, it has become difficult for us to function in daily life without Google. The same can’t quite yet be said for Facebook.
Need to find out a vital piece of information for an essay? Google search. Visiting a friend at their new apartment? Google Maps. Deciding whether or not to take an umbrella with you? Back to Google for the weather.
Of course, other search engines and mapping technologies do exist and it would technically be possible to bypass Google. But, no one can be bothered. Google has reliability and ease on its side and we do not want to give that up to protect our data.
Related article: Data Privacy Scandals: Why We Don’t Care as Much as We Should
The main takeaway point from the comparison between Google and Facebook is that people will tolerate data collection by tech giants, as long as it’s not shared with third parties in a way that they feel breaches trust. The social agreement between digital users and big tech is that we get a valuable free service and they get our data in return. But, if this is used against us in a way that we did not agree to, the agreement is broken and the trust is gone. Google has gone (mostly) unscathed so far, but there’s always a chance that a data breach will break that trust too.