The news that 50 million Facebook accounts have been breached is another blow for the tech giant as it tries to restore trust in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Reputation expert Chris Scott said a second scandal in a single year could undo all the work the firm has put into distancing itself from alleged meddling in the US election and the Brexit vote.
It emerged in March that data from around 50 million accounts had been harvested by tech firm Cambridge Analytica to build an algorithm delivering targeted political adverts based on the user’s psychological profile. The current data breach is on a similar scale.
Consumers will forgive you if they see you’ve had a one off hit – but it’s a lot more difficult to forgive if it’s a second hit
Mr Scott, a lawyer helping firms protect their reputation, said: “Recovering from reputational damage can take many years and with Cambridge Analytica Facebook has had a very big hit. “They’ve put a lot of effort in to trying to convince people that their business has changed.”
Among the steps Facebook took to try and rebuild faith was a billboard campaign with slogans such as “data misuse is not our friend”, “fake news is not our friend” and “fake accounts are not our friend”.
It also created a television campaign vowing to do more to keep users safe and protect privacy.
Mr Scott said: “Consumers will forgive you if they see you’ve had a one off hit – but it’s a lot more difficult to forgive if it’s a second hit.”
He added: “It becomes a lot harder for people to trust you when you say things won’t go wrong in the future.” Facebook said in a statement they discovered the security breach on Tuesday but did not announce the news until Friday.
Friday was a busy news day in the US due to the planned vote on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court following sexual misconduct allegations. But Mr Scott said it was important not to read too much into the timing of the announcement.
“They have to find out what’s gone wrong and why and how many people have been affected and how to fix it – and it’s much more reassuring [for users] if they have some of this information when the announcement is made.
“Facebook will now spend weeks and months figuring out what’s happened and why it’s happened – I think the time frame in this case was not unreasonable.” So far, Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg has refused to give evidence to meet with MPs examining the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Following the latest data breach, MP Damian Collins, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, tweeted: “More serious questions for Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook – this is why @CommonsCMS will continue to press for him to give evidence to our parliament.”