It was recently discovered that back in 2015 Facebook allowed 3rd party Cambridge Analytica to access private data from over 50 million Facebook users without consent from those users. Cambridge Analytica used that data to build psychographic profiles and use those profiles for targeted political campaigns. Facebook actually discovered the issue in 2015 and told the offending parties they needed to certify that they deleted the data but they didn’t verify that deletion and they never notified users. Now it looks like that data was not deleted and has continued to be used for political purposes by Cambridge Analytica. You can read more about the incident in this article.
Facebook has received a fair amount of negative publicity recently that continues to erode their brand and the trust their customers have in them. Ask your students how Facebook should respond. Ask if they think the negative publicity will actually have a material impact on the number of facebook users or ad sponsors. If students say it won’t have a material impact, ask whether Facebook should do anything about it or not if that’s the case. This can lead to a rich discussion that covers business ethics, opportunities for competitors to differentiate, opportunities for startups, and more. What role should the government play, if any, when it comes to regulating use of consumer information for marketing or other purposes?