Facebook and Cambridge Analytica: The Impact on Nonprofits
Millions of social media users are still feeling the impact of the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica revelations that caused company CEO Mark Zuckerburg to testify in front of Congress earlier this month. Reportedly, upwards of 50 million users had their data accessed unknowingly, which may have allowed the U.K.-based Cambridge to influence the results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
There is no doubt that concern is heavy in the world of tech. But more than this, unease continues to grow in the nonprofit world, as well. Nonprofit organizations of all kinds use social media tools such as Facebook for all types of activities, from community organizing to fundraising. This is mainly due to the fact that many of these outlets are free, easy to use, and it amplifies tools that nonprofits already have in place. However, these revelations have made for an environment where nonprofits have to be more diligent than ever.
In a recent blog post on the Public Interest Registry, company CEO Brian Cute and current employee Paul Diaz cited pros and cons of using social media platforms. It has become much clearer that using social media leaves individuals and organizations susceptible to unauthorized use of personal or company data. Some of the pros and cons highlighted by Cute and Diaz include:
-Social media is a powerful connector.
-Direct engagement with your audience helps you reach your goals.
-Data management and security is out of your hands.
-Security of financial transactions on social media can be tricky.
So in this new environment, what can nonprofits do to protect themselves short of deleting Facebook? This is a question that all nonprofit organizations should be asking diligently. That’s because not using social media may do more harm to a nonprofit than good. There are still tons of benefits for nonprofits using social media platforms. The key now is to be more cognizant of the potential pitfalls of doing so. Here are a few things nonprofits can do right now:
Take steps to protect the information of your donors – Facebook and other platforms can now be used for everything from applying for jobs to the purchase of goods and services. Most importantly for nonprofits is the concept of fundraising. While Facebook can greatly amplify your fundraising efforts, it may leave the personal and financial information of your donors vulnerable. Make sure you take the steps needed to protect the information of those donors.
Become more familiar with the terms and services of the platforms your organizations uses regularly – Facebook’s business model is to monetize the data of its users. The trust factor for the company has been severely ruptured. Therefore, it will be up to nonprofits to constantly be in the know as far as what the terms and conditions are of the social media platforms they use regularly. It’s no longer good enough to scroll through the long paragraphs or to leave boxes checked or unchecked. Do your research and constantly monitor the terms and conditions of your most used social media platforms.
Monitor who has access to and controls social media passwords and platforms at your org – Who does and does not have access to your organizations social media account is just as important as knowing the terms of service. It is best to keep the social media account access limited to only a few people. First, to keep messaging consistent. Next, to limit the potential for internally harmful situations.
Taking the necessary steps now, including owning up to mistakes early, being transparent, and getting more educated about the online platform on which you created your brand identity as a nonprofit, will help. However, the onus of protecting internal and client and donor data falls on the organization as a whole. Make sure you are doing everything your organization and those who support it are protected all around.