Facebook Issues

Facebook Issues
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Facebook, a ubiquitous household online social media and networking site( or service) , which has connected millions of users worldwide, is now increasingly becoming controversial, not only because of its huge size, scale and reach but also for dodgy practices. The most infamous of these was the Cambridge Analytica scandal and adverts of a political nature whose provenance was apocryphal. At one level, the very existence of the service is testimony and a tribute to the nature of America’s innovation driven economy, where college going grads or even drop outs ( read Bill Gates) can create , pioneer and build such path breaking innovations that have a staggering impact far beyond the original invention or innovation. ( Obiter Dictum, in our parts of the world, not only brilliant ideas which might seem crazy or eccentric are squelched but college drop outs , most of the times, can’t even dream of a respectable future). Innovation driven economies then not only have an incentive for brilliant ideas to flourish but also an inherent and inbuilt dynamism for what the great economist, Joseph Alois Schumpeter, called, “creative destruction”. But, all said and done, there is a flip and a down side to this. Facebook illustrates and encapsulates this flipside. While the business model of the virtual firm is not too difficult to understand with the company generating revenues mostly from adverts , and the so called “firehose” access where data of users is sold to third parties, it is here that the nub of the problem lies. This issue raises obvious issues of privacy and allied problems in a world where data analytics and the information gleaned and gained thereof is increasingly become a critical component of decision making my business firms and for political analyses and purposes. The Cambridge Analytica scandal constitutes a case in point here. How, the question is, can data and privacy be better protected? One answer is through regulation of mega virtual firms like Facebook but the nature of the firm is so complex that it defies ordinary and prosaic regulation and , at times, as was demonstrated by the United States’ investigation of Facebook, is beyond the capabilities of lawmakers. But, this does not mean regulation is useless. It is important in its own right. But, the other check on firms like Facebook, is investor oversight and prudent and effective corporate governance. Perhaps, investor oversight( corporate governance) along with prudential regulation might be the best antidotes to the nature of the problem at hand and keeping the potential abuse of power of these firms in check. Let then both regulators and investors take note.

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