What’s Up Wednesday 3/6/19

Cryptocurrency and Facebook?

Could it be true that a company that finds itself under constant fire for loosely handling customer privacy is embarking on its own cryptocurrency venture?  Is that even possible given the recent levels of public distrust that Facebook has engendered?  Based on the latest rumors, it indeed seems to be the case.

As a whole, social media companies aren’t exactly generating a high number of positive vibes these days.  This isn’t just the lack of trust in a single social media outlet, in this case Facebook (where the distrust may well have originated), but rather it appears to be a significant level of distrust in all social media companies, their platforms, and their business practices and priorities.  There’s ample evidence that these companies do not consistently pursue what’s in their users’ best interests (or for that matter – what many folks are beginning to believe – in societies’ overall best interests).

Facebook, over the past couple of years, has seen itself blamed for many things – many of them politically related and having to do with national elections here in the United States.  Right or wrong, that is the overarching public perception at the current time and this has helped beget the widespread distrust of social media platforms from all sides of the political spectrum.

When it comes to generating interest in a new product that requires ultimate trust, a product like cryptocurrency, it’s hard to imagine how such a bold business endeavor can be successful given the current climate and opinions of the company.  Facebook, like any business that handles a customer’s personal information, must generate and maintain a certain level of trust from its users.  Given current circumstances and the public feelings of mistrust, it’s hard to see a pathway to success for Facebook if these rumors about its cryptocurrency activities are accurate.

One way to possibly change current circumstances for the company is to focus on regaining public trust.  And this is what Facebook appears to be attempting with its new initiative to rebrand itself as a “privacy-focused messaging and social networking platform”.  That’s what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg put forward in a statement today.

In a piece on Facebook, Zuckerberg went on to say, “I understand that many people don’t think Facebook can or would even want to build this kind of privacy-focused platform – because frankly we don’t currently have a strong reputation for building privacy protective services, and we’ve historically focused on tools for more open sharing”.  The title of his piece on Facebook is “A privacy-Focused Vision for Social Networking”.

Mashable recently spoke to cryptography expert Paul Kocher about Facebook’s possible foray into the cryptocurrency market.  He said the following:  “Payment systems need to protect users” and “Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have fared badly in this regard, resulting in numerous thefts”.  “The idea of combining Bitcoin’s theft mitigation and Facebook’s privacy seems particularly toxic to users.”  Kocher continued to say that “Doubtless Facebook would try to claim that they’d do the ‘right’ thing, but their track record reflects a pattern of disregard for user privacy”.

Can a new initiative focused on customer privacy and security be enough to change the tides in terms of public trust?  Can it foster organizational change to the point of becoming a viable source of cryptocurrency?  This seems like a tall order at the moment.  As a business, if a customer’s faith falters, it’s hard to regain (consider Wells Fargo and Equifax, two significant and storied companies that find themselves in the same position).  Facebook made many mistakes during its incredible initial growth period.  By not placing its users’ best interests at the forefront of business activities, it now has a mountain to climb in order to regain user trust.

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