Since the now famous NSA leak by former consultant Edward Snowden, companies like Facebook and Google are in full-blown online reputation management mode.
PRISM is a government-sanctioned program whose purpose was obtaining real-time information about electronic communications nationwide. In documents Snowden leaked, the PRISM program was apparently given direct access to company servers that contained personal information about users and their online actions.
PRISM officials are widely believed to have held agreements with many major U.S. companies. Despite denial, these rumors may have irrevocably damaged the online reputation of many of these social media outlets. Facebook has stated that the PRISM program has never been granted any such access. Aside from Facebook, eight other companies, including Yahoo, Microsoft and Apple, have all been implicated and subsequently denied involvement in the program.
While recent polls reveal that most American citizens are not unopposed to the government having access to electronic communication, the possibility that the National Security Administration has unrestricted retrieval privileges to these companies’ servers is more than the average citizen can bear. The reputation damage done by the leak, however, has nothing to do with the government. The problem is that the companies may have actually known about the program all along and still maintained a veil of absolute privacy for their users. These companies were charged with keeping their customer or user data secure and had made very public vows to do so.
Even if the companies didn’t have full knowledge of the data capture, the suspicion that they did may create a long-term online reputation management problem.
The chatter continues
All across the Internet, conversations are taking place about the PRISM gaffe, and contributors have expressed utter outrage against sites like Facebook. The American public seems serious about discussing the implications of the situation. All of these online posts contribute to the affected companies’ online reputations. The more traffic a post gets, the more credence that information has on Google and the more prevalent the scandal will remain.
Twitter stands tall as a privacy advocate
For many, the gleaming absence of Twitter from the list is a sure sign the Facebook rival has made good on its historic promises to safeguard the privacy of its millions of users. The website has always maintained its standing as one of the most secure sites on the Net. Twitter’s online reputation remains strong, and it will no doubt see an influx of new registrants over the coming weeks and months as more information about the PRISM program and other social media sites’ involvement is revealed.
The future trust of tech companies and their online reputations will depend on how they handle this PR nightmare. Privacy is the foundation of that trust, and if Facebook and its contemporaries want to regain the public’s faith, they must tighten their security measures even further.
Blake Jonathan Boldt is responsible for the creation of educational community pieces as well as social media and content strategy services for a diversity of domestic and international clients. His articles have been featured in numerous magazines, newspapers and digital media outlets such as Search Engine Journal, Social Media Today, Simply Hired and Examiner.com.