The Issue At Hand
Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm hired by President Trump’s 2016 election campaign, gained access to private information on more than 50 million Facebook users.
The data, a portion of which was viewed by The New York Times, included details on users’ identities, friend networks and “likes.” The idea was to map personality traits based on what people had liked on Facebook, and then use that information to target audiences with digital ads. Researchers in 2014 asked users to take a personality survey and download an app, which scraped some private information from their profiles and those of their friends, activity that Facebook permitted at the time and has since banned.
Facebook Inc. later admitted that this data could have been accessed improperly.
This issue sparked conversations that question, “Is Facebook crossing a line in privacy when collecting data for advertisers?”
Facebook repeatedly notes that their number one concern is the user experience on the platform. Think about how far the social media experience has come since MySpace. The Facebook experience used to be solely about posting status updates, writing on your friends’ walls and communicating to one another. We now have Facebook Watch, Facebook Marketplace, Facebook Messenger, Facebook Live, Groups, Events, Business Pages, etc. To say the platform has evolved would almost be insulting, as it’s manifested into a conglomerate. Something no one has ever seen before, much less regulated.
During the Zuckerberg testimonies a few weeks ago, Congress held Zuckerberg’s feet to the fire. It was comical to listen to these men and women try and ask questions about Facebook and what the platform did wrong in this data breach. As with many headlines in the news, this story was just flavor of the week, and a couple weeks later the story blew over; or did it?
As a Social Media Strategist, I work on Facebook campaigns, as well as other social platforms, all day. There are constant updates happening to the Business Manager platform with audience targeting, with privacy notifications, etc. Working alongside our Facebook Representative, it’s clear that Facebook is working to ensure that privacy concerns are cleaned up. They’ve announced they’re eliminating the 3rd party data audiences or Partner Categories. These categories allow advertisers to target niche audience groups based off the user’s information like recent purchases, click history, and other data collected about you, the user. Facebook also noted they will be implementing a stricter method of Email Matching to ensure advertisers are correctly complying when collecting emails to target. Facebook has given a deadline of October 2018 by which they will be slowly removing this information. Though, as I’ve already mentioned, Facebook changes something nearly every day. In six months things could be very different.
So where do we go from here? Have you noticed that messaging apps, social media apps, etc. have all been “updating their privacy terms and conditions?”
This Facebook privacy crackdown has certainly had a ripple effect through the technology world. As for advertising on Facebook, the Partner Categories haven’t been removed quite yet, though it’s been recommended to start moving campaigns off the Partner Category targeting and move back into the demographic and interest-based targeting; the “2015” way of Facebook advertising. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it only means Facebook won’t be placing target audiences in categories, and that advertisers will have to utilize more research, take more time and lean harder on insights and past results in order to generate the best results.