This year has seen a relentless tsunami of scandals and controversies for the world's largest social networking company, with the latest being that Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) discovered last week that a security issue related to its "View As" feature had impacted approximately 50 million users. An additional 40 million accounts could potentially be affected, too, bringing the total number of users that could have data compromised up to 90 million. Facebook logged those 90 million users out as a precautionary measure.
Of course, this all follows the now-infamous Cambridge Analytica scandal, reports that Facebook years ago gave handset manufacturers access to user data, and acquired start-up founders leaving over disagreements regarding data practices.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg has tried to downplay the #DeleteFacebook movement, saying that he hasn't seen a "meaningful number of people" deleting their accounts. Maybe the company should be more concerned.
Facebook extends its deletion grace period
Historically, when a user chooses to delete their account, they are granted a 14-day grace period to change their mind. After that, Facebook says it deletes the user's account data within 90 days. (Note that this does not apply to a user's "shadow profile," the surreptitious collection of data that the social giant keeps on people, Facebook users and non-users alike.) The company has just extended the grace period from 14 days to 30 days, giving users on the fence a full month before the decision is irreversible.
Facebook says that many users who have chosen to delete their accounts try to log back in after the 14-day grace period, suggesting that a longer time period is warranted to give them "more time to make a fully informed choice." That may be true, but the skeptical way to interpret the policy change is that account deletions could be on the rise in response to the string of scandals, and Facebook hopes that more users will change their minds and come back if given more time. Maybe addicted users will relapse, maybe people will forgive and forget, or maybe they'll simply realize they need or want the service again.
Is it different this time?
However, an estimated 72% of Facebook users said they will take some type of action in response to the latest attack, according to Business Insider Intelligence. That data point is derived from a survey of Facebook users (n = 2,676) following the news, and the action could range from tightening privacy settings to complete account deletion. Just 28% of respondents said they would carry on normally with no change.
Tightening privacy settings was the most common response at 18%, but it's worth noting that privacy settings don't really help in the case of unauthorized data breaches. Another 12% said they would likely remove some personal information from their profiles, but remember aforementioned shadow profiles mean the company is still probably retaining at least some of that data (phone numbers are most likely). Roughly 11% vowed to delete their accounts, with another 7% saying they would deactivate their accounts.
While you can't extrapolate those percentages reliably across Facebook's massive user base, as other recent similar surveys have shown, it's yet another data point that suggests Facebook users are growing weary of the service. For what it's worth, the company's last earnings report showed user metrics remaining stable (financial guidance was what caused the massive sell-off). Still, Facebook desperately needs to fix its tattered image and hopefully regain users' trust.