In this high-profile reputation crisis involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica I pose a reflection: Is it possible for a multinational organization to be apolitical? This is one of the main ethical challenges of any multinational, but that is even more important when a company is not simply involved in the business of selling products and services, such as gasoline, shoes or perfumes. In the case of Facebook, which self-defined it ambitiously as a company that wants to ‘make the world more open and connected’, it is clear that it is quite complicated. The mission of the company enters in the collision route with the right to privacy and the power of those who use our data in advertising via Facebook as a weapon of influence.
In this sense, the #DeleteFacebook initiative, although it will seldom affect the company, is an interesting indicator of a possible change of social mood in relation to the nice blue company. That’s because the initiative expresses a rejection and the growing awareness that social networks, and in particular Facebook as its main actor, is not as innocent as their smiley faces or thumbs up icons. Or the posts of dogs and cats.
In this crisis of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica what we see clearly is the questioning of the ethics of a company by the way in which:
- Manages the data it has gotten from people: the myth of transparency
- Understands the private realm as something commercially profitable: the «monetization of our online footprint»
- Ultimately, manages stakeholders’ trust
It is an extremely complex case with implications for any company that moves in the digital economy. Such companies need some parameters about how to make their strategic decisions when these three aspects face their businesses. In the next three posts I will try to address these points. To be continued…