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February 5, 2014

How Facebook is underperforming

The social media revolution is just beginning, according to one businesses expert.

By Duncan Macrae

Facebook is struggling to reach its full potential, despite growing to 1.2 billion active users, with a revenue of $7.9bn in 2013, one business expert has suggested.

The social networking site celebrated its 10th birthday this week but KPMG’s head of information protection and business resilience, Malcolm Marshall, believes the social media revolution has just begun.

Referring to Facebook’s revenue, he said: "They’re big numbers, but also just $6.50 of revenue for each active user. So the question for me is: how can we help users get more from their social media and really grow the market?

"For me, the market is only just beginning to mature. As it grows we can expect users to become far more savvy about the value of their information, and the return they demand from offering a window into their lives and hopes. Privacy is ultimately a personal choice, but that needs to be an educated choice, with more transparency about the trade social media platforms offer users between their privacy and the marketing or provision of tailored services. Society will debate people’s rights over their data, and rightly demand market models which allow users to share in the value generated from that data. All of this must be founded on trust between users and social media providers."

Marshall believes we can also expect governments to attempt regulation of social media, whether to protect the vulnerable in society, or in some cases to succumb to the temptation to limit free speech.

He added: "Social media is not beyond law, albeit that jurisdiction is tricky to determine, and we can expect more cases around defamation and even debates on just who owns the rights to your social media presence after death. Governments will start to concern themselves more with the functioning of the market, challenging monopolies and anti-competitive behaviours. All of this comes with a maturing market, but I am under no illusion how difficult this will be in such a rapidly changing environment.

"More and more personal data will be traded, not just photographs and postings, but every aspect of lives from our every movement to the always on video from our personal webcam. Our devices will be on-line reporting on the food we eat, the electricity we use, and even how we drive our car. We can expect innovative models for exploiting that data, but equally growing concerns over misuse and abuse of that data. While that data is a goldmine for commerce, it is also a wonderful opportunity for organised crime and, as Edward Snowden’s disclosures have shown, for intelligence services."

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