What privacy scandal? Facebook posts record revenues for first quarter

Facebook's active users grew year-on-year, although a GDPR-shaped cloud may be on the horizon for the social network

Thomas McMullan
26 Apr 2018
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If you’d glanced over Facebook’s latest financial earnings you’d be forgiven for not knowing this is a company at the heart of a data privacy scandal. On Wednesday, the social network posted record profits for the first quarter of 2018 – with revenue of $11.97 billion, up 49% from this time last year.

That figure comes alongside 2.2 billion monthly active users, and 1.45 billion daily active users; both marking a 13% rise from Q1 2017.  While the scope of that posting, which spans from January to March, won’t fully reflect the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica revelations, it nevertheless shows little effect from ongoing calls to delete Facebook around concerns about the social network’s role in election interference.

“Despite facing important challenges, our community and business are off to a strong start in 2018,” said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO, in a statement. “We are taking a broader view of our responsibility and investing to make sure our services are used for good. But we also need to keep building new tools to help people connect, strengthen our communities, and bring the world closer together.”

It’s worth noting that Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress happened in April, so any financial ripples will have to wait until Q2 2018’s earning report. That quarter will also include the introduction of GDPR, which may see a drop in revenue across Europe as regulation around what personal information companies can hold about their users is tightened.

“While we don’t expect the changes will have a significant impact on ad revenue, any change in our ability for us and advertisers to use data can impact our optimisation potential at the margin,” Facebook’s chief financial officer, Dave Wehner, told The Guardian.

Facebook has been making moves to change its privacy tools over recent weeks, including how it handles political advertisements. Today also sees the launch of a new PR campaign; part apology for data misuse and part attempt to shift focus back to all the supposedly great things Facebook has done in creating connections between friends and family.  

The video is a clear attempt to draw a line under the past few weeks of Facebook’s woes, although the fallout is far from over. Today, customer profiling company Cubeyou has said the social network threw it “under the bus”; suspending it from the site under suspicion that the company had been selling data collected through personality quiz apps.

Speaking to the BBC, Cubeyou’s chief executive Federico Treu said it had "played by the book", and had been a certified Facebook partner for six years.  

"Facebook didn't think twice to throw us under the bus with all the investment and our reputation on the line just because they wanted to release the pressure from public opinion around what is happening right now," he said.

Facebook claims the decision was made as part of a broader ongoing investigation.

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