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One in Ten Americans Deactivated Their Facebook Accounts in Fear of Privacy Breach

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in his testimony this week in Washington that there was not a “meaningful” number of people who had deleted their Facebook account following revelations that data firms were able to steal personal information from millions of users.

At the same time, the hashtag “#DeleteFacebook” has trended following the Cambridge Analytica, and you may even personally know people who zapped their Facebook account.

So Carolina Milanesi and the technology research group Techpinions decided to survey 1,000 Americans, representative of the country in age and gender, about their feelings regarding the social-networking giant.

Of course, there may be a gap between people who say they deleted their Facebook and those who actually did. And Americans account for only a fraction of Facebook’s user base.

Either way, Milanesi writes that lower engagement is actually the real risk for Facebook, not necessarily people deleting their accounts.

According to the study, two out of five people surveyed who had been on Facebook for over seven years wanted it to “go back to how it was.” Facebook’s main product hasn’t changed that much in recent years, so perhaps, like Zuckerberg, they’re reminiscing about a time when the company was run out of a Harvard dorm room and the key feature was the “poke.”

Mistakes can be fixed, apologies given and investigations launched, leaving the company free to move on. But deliberate, calculated actions such as tracking users around the net to better advertise to them when they return to the social network, or collecting data on non-users to work out how other users know one another, are harder to dismiss.

If the public begins to question those choices as well, Zuckerberg’s company faces a difficult decision. Does it plough ahead with its plans, hoping that inertia will prevent people leaving, and short attention spans will mean the scandal blows over? Or does it change its platform radically, cutting back heavily on the targeted advertising that is the chief rationale for the data collection, and take a revenue hit in the process?

Zuckerberg, whose 16% ownership of Facebook magically becomes 60% of the voting rights on the board, needs to choose. Does he want to be liked, or to be rich? This week has shown he can’t be both.

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