The Data Scandal Explained
Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm, found a loophole in Facebook’s API and policy regarding third party apps, which allowed them to access Facebook user’s information through a Facebook app quiz. Cambridge Analytica not only received the information of those who took the quiz, but they gathered information of the friends of the quiz takers without their permission.
Cambridge then targeted all of these individuals on Facebook with advertisements for specific candidates during the 2016 election. This loophole for Facebook’s privacy and third party app partnerships allowed Cambridge Analytica to access private information for those of which it did not have permission to, and use it to their advantage. By numbers – 270,000 people took the quiz but 87 million people actually had their data exposed. Yikes.
Facebook is dedicated to protecting its users data, and is committed to company transparency, control and accountability. Facebook listed all the information that the platform collects, how the company uses that information, how the information is shared and how the user can control what personal information is shared with Facebook.
Facebook is responsible for their practices and principles, which is why the team regularly meets with data privacy experts and policy makers around the world to ensure that their policies are up to date and are secure.
From the user perspective, Facebook will strengthen data protection, increase communication for how personal data is being protected and allow users to have more control over their personal information. But, how does this increased security affect how businesses reach their audience on this platform? Cue new blog section.
What the Facebook Investigation Means for Businesses
A more secure platform for users has certain implications for businesses. From the business perspective, we will see changes in how we can access user data and who we can advertise to on Facebook.
Facebook is going to end the Partner Categories feature, which allows advertisers to use third-party information to target Facebook Ads to specific users (and Cambridge Analytica to access user info without their permission). The third-party partners provided Facebook with information about users’ off-platform behavior, like if they own a home, are looking to purchase a car or if they are a loyal customer to a specific company. This information allowed advertisers to have incredibly detailed targeting options.
Without this feature moving forward, businesses can target users with Facebook’s behavior targeting, interest targeting, geographical targeting or custom audience targeting (using emails obtained legally). For most of Magneti’s clients, this is how we already target our audiences on the Facebook platform. We also use a feature called lookalike audiences – we import our clients’ email lists and Facebook generates a list of people with similar behaviors, demographics and interests.
Europe is aiming to solve the privacy issue through the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The Facebook investigation and GDPR legislation overlap a lot – we will be publishing another blog on GDPR soon.
Multiple tech evangelists were using the hashtag, #DeleteFacebook, when the Facebook investigation began. There will be an upfront “scare” to delete Facebook, butttt it will not have a long term effect. Individuals are posting less on Facebook, but they are still using the platform often, and businesses of all sizes use the tool as one of its top paid marketing channels.
We will be sure to update our clients on any changes to their marketing. Outside of the data policy update, nothing has really changed, but as always, Facebook changes can happen overnight…so stay tuned. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out!