Breaking Down the Latest Facebook Scandal

April 20, 2018 - 7 minutes read

Facebook has been all over the news lately and if we are just reading the headlines, or watching snips of Congress asking Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg questions, we may be confused. My hope is to answer some questions so you better understand what really happened, what it means to you as a consumer and what it means to you as a Facebook advertiser. I thought the best way to do this is with the top questions being asked:

What exactly happened between Facebook and Cambridge Analytica? 

Back in 2014, a simple app that was a personality quiz was created by an employee of a data collection company called Cambridge Analytica and placed on Facebook’s platform. This quiz was taken by over 300,000 people. This app not only collected data from people who took the quiz, it also collected data from the friends of the people who took the quiz. When the app was created, Facebook’s API had a loophole that allowed app developers to request all sorts of data from people who used the app on Facebook, including private information users shared and public information posted by their friends. From this information and loophole, Cambridge Analytica was able to access tens of millions of Facebook users’ data. At the time, nothing was technically illegal or violating privacy acts, and it was all stated in Facebook’s App Privacy settings. However, what not everyone knows is that Facebook has always prohibited the selling of data that is collected by third party data companies. Cambridge Analytica sold the data anyway.

In 2015, a journalist reported to Facebook that this had happened. Facebook banned that app and put measurements in place to prevent this from happening again by drastically limiting what third-party data apps could access. This is when Facebook made their biggest mistake by NOT telling the public.

Why are we just hearing about this now?

Facebook is obviously taking action now because of the bad press it is receiving. In addition to changing its API and putting other security placements in back in 2015, they have also, as of the last 2 weeks, demanded that Cambridge Analytica certify that it had destroyed the user data that was taken. It also suspended Cambridge Analytica’s Facebook account and barred anyone in connection to this scandal from Facebook.

Is Facebook the only tech company out there I should worry about? 

Of course not!  Every social platform, as well as Apple, Google, Amazon and thousands more companies, utilize your data to learn more about you. This is the world we live in and will continue to live in. This data is what allows the personalization of advertisements that we have come to expect and, frankly, should hope for. Remember that Facebook is one of MANY data breaches that consumers have endured, and, frankly, it probably is the tamest.  Remember Equifax? Target? Just to name a few.

Will Facebook be impacted by this?

Maybe. But in all honesty, my opinion is no. Most people have come to realize that when you sign up for anything on the internet, whether that be a social platform, or a personality quiz, search on Google, or shop on Amazon, that your information is being collected. Remember the day that we use to think we could “clear our cookies” on our laptops and we wouldn’t have data collected on us? Well those days have been gone for years. With the innovation of GPS and location data, companies not only know what your shopping habits are, but they can almost pinpoint to some certainty where you are shopping at this very minute. So, if you are that person that jumped on the #deleteFacebook movement, know that will not last long.  Facebook may see a very small decline in users, but predictions are that they will be back.

As an advertiser, should I stop advertising on Facebook’s platform?

No. The capabilities that Facebook Advertising offers based on targeting is one of the best social platforms out there. As a business owner, isn’t your job in marketing to find the right people at the right time and deliver them the message that they want to see? Facebook is one form of advertising that does this very well. Why wouldn’t you want to capitalize on this? If you’re pulling out to prove a point to your consumers, please understand that on a scale of breaches, this scandal is minimal to other hacks or data breaches that we have already endured.

I hope I was able to help you understand a little better what all the headlines on the latest Facebook scandal really means to you. As a digital marketing consultant, the era we live in now is something I love. I can help businesses have 1-on-1 communications with consumers and deliver them the ads they really want to see. I have been working in advertising since 1998, and to me, this is the best it has ever been. With those amazing targeting capabilities also comes the danger of privacy issues. My job is to make sure that the partners we work with, like Facebook, are doing their very best to protect a consumer’s privacy, and still personalize the message.

Well I hope I have answered some of your questions on the latest Facebook headlines.  As we are continuing into an era of data collection with the advancements like Siri, Alexa and beacons, just to name a few, the consumer targeting is only going to get better based on what you are in the market for at any given moment.  Always be safe with what information you share, but also embrace that you are now being delivered ads that you really might want to see.