Unaffected by data breach controversy, Facebook profit hits all-time high

Screen Shot 2018 04 25

SAN FRANCISCO Facebook's troubles with Russian election meddlers, "fake news " and misused data have dominated headlines globally.

Global daily users hit 1.45 billion in the first quarter, an increase of 13 percent year over year. And it announced it was significantly increasing its share buybacks by $9 billion. Daily active users were 1.45 billion, on average, for March 2018, an increase of 13 per cent year-on-year. It's the very data at the center of its recent privacy scandal.

If users chose to restrict their data as much as possible on the platform, Ms Sandberg said it "would affect the product".

Zuckerberg two faced questioning in congressional panels about revelations that personal data was harvested on 87 million users by Cambridge Analytica, a consultancy working for Donald Trump's 2016 campaign.

At least three companies, Sonos, Commerzbank and Mozilla, pulled their advertising from the platform in response to the scandal. A few companies, including the German bank Commerzbank and speaker-maker Sonos, temporarily paused their ads.

Although the impact of the scandal, which broke in mid-March, was unlikely to be reflected in the first quarter, the early signs suggested users and advertisers would remain. It seems the company is trying to hide more than reveal. This was 50 per cent up on the $7.85 billion reported in Q1, 2017, but was a drop of $984 million on Q4, 2017. But the 4C numbers give some indication of how smaller brands are behaving.

"The strength continues, and we're certainly not seeing impact from Cambridge Analytica", said Aaron Goldman, chief marketing officer at 4C Insights, a marketing technology company.

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"Most [advertisers] are disturbed at an individual level with what happened", market researcher Brian Wieser told AP, "but there's nothing that made Facebook overly toxic - yet".

Some analysts are modeling slightly less rosy takes going forward, however.

If Facebook had admitted that it had axed the app which mined data of Indians who downloaded it and 5.6 lakh of their friends, the IT ministry now wants to know whether any criminal or legal action was taken against those who used its platform to siphon and sell data, and how the site plans to safeguard data. That might be a good public relations move, he said, but it's a big change for advertisers. "To each query, the company that faces probes in different parts of the world for illegal data mining, has provided one line answers which don't explain anything or provide any assurances".

Facebook data breach has snowballed into a major controversy in India with main political parties BJP and Congress accusing each other of engaging services of Cambridge Analytica to influence elections in the country.

Oh, and Facebook has been criticized for its growth-at-any-cost mentality. Advertising revenue soared 50 percent, to almost $12 billion. A further rise is expected over the rest of this year.

"There are still many risks ahead around digital advertising spending in Europe", Wieser said in a note to investors.

Sandberg rejected any suggestion that Facebook should diversify its business model away from micro-targeted advertising.

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