John McLellan: Facebook is set to face the Cambridge Analytica music

With an estimated personal fortune of about $70 billion, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg will not have noticed the cost of the full-page adverts he took out in the weekend papers to apologise for his company's abuses of personal data.

McLellan says Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg's recent apologies have been too little and too late. Picture: Contributed.
McLellan says Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg's recent apologies have been too little and too late. Picture: Contributed.

As gestures go, it was too little and too late to counter the perception Facebook is not a benign conduit for people to share pictures of their dinner, holidays and pets, but a global master of personal data that advertisers will pay anything to access.

The extent to which data has been manipulated by Cambridge Analytica has changed public attitudes virtually overnight. Criticism of Facebook was often dismissed as the self-interested grumping of old media, but now every user may question how much they are supporting a multi-billion dollar cult or, in the case of US users, if they were subliminally persuaded to put Donald Trump in the White House.

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Cambridge Analytica is unlikely to be the only outfit to benefit from free access to Facebook’s data, but as it stands the only way to prevent further manipulation is for people to stop using Facebook. It’s hard to think millions of people will suddenly break the Facebook habit, but if properly regulated would it be able to maintain the illusion that it is essentially an honest social mission?

Facebook, Twitter and Google are meeting UK digital and media secretary Matt Hancock shortly to discuss their customer care, but it will take more than Hancock’s demand for a bullet-point data usage guide to stop them gorging on personal information which has made them billions.

- The closure of the former Cumbrian News Group print plant in Carlisle was inevitable when the family-owned firm was bought by Newsquest, the Herald publisher with a big production centre in Cambuslang. Newsquest recently acquired a plant in North Wales with the purchase of another independent news publisher, NWM, and with Carlisle needing significant investment the switch to printing at the other end of the M74 made perfect sense.

- Tomorrow is Media Scotland managing director Allan Rennie’s last day with the company after nearly 25 years, in which he edited both the Daily Record and Sunday Mail before taking over as MD in 2014.

In leading the company’s transformation into a multi-media business, he has been one of the most significant figures in Scottish journalism when the challenges have been toughest.

He has been president of the Scottish Newspaper Society for the past two years and fittingly one of his last acts is to host an industry reception for MPs in Westminster this evening.

John McLellan is director of the Scottish Newspaper Society