Facebook Privacy Issues Will Change Digital Marketing

In an NBC interview excerpt shared yesterday by the network, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, said: “…our service depends on your data … we don’t have an opt-out at the highest level … that would be a paid product.”

Fans of the TV show Person of Interest may remember an exchange between John Reese and Harold Finch at the beginning of the episode “Identity Crisis”:

Harold Finch: Hester’s living off the grid – no photos online and nothing on the social networking sites.

John Reese: I never understood why people put all their information on those sites. Used to make our job a lot easier at the CIA.

Harold Finch: Of course. That’s why I created them.

John Reese: You’re telling me you invented online social networking, Finch?

Harold Finch: The Machine needed more information. People’s social graph, their associations. The government had been trying to figure it out for years. Turns out most people were happy to volunteer it. Business wound up being quite profitable, too.

While the TV show Person of Interest was tied to a deep government conspiracy, users posting on Facebook are doing exactly what is suggested in the above exchange.

Except in this case the social media giant makes “anonymized” demographic data available that helps marketers target market potential customers in advertising on their platform.

And just this week, NBC exposed another Facebook program involving sharing of health data for a “research project” that was halted immediately when the hoopla around the Cambridge Analytica situation started.

This news coincides with the revelation that the original number of reported accounts impacted by the Cambridge Analytica affair may be 87 million, not around 50 million as originally reported.

Wait, there is more…

This morning, when Sandberg’s entire interview aired on NBC’s Today show, she admitted that Facebook knew about Cambridge Analytica mishandling data 2 1/2 years ago and relied on the company’s promises they had deleted the information.

In another interview with the Financial Times she said “To this day, we still don’t know what data Cambridge Analytica have.”

And the Daily Mail reports today that Zuckerberg’s Facebook messaging history may have gaps from deletions not afforded to regular users. (Update: News after publication of this story came out that Facebook is adding an unsend feature)

Who needs Wikileaks with the regular media piling on Facebook like this?

EU New Privacy Laws

There has been pressure on Facebook to adapt the new EU privacy laws globally and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been quoted as saying “Overall, I think regulations like the GDPR are very positive.”

He even went so far as to dismiss a Reuters report that claimed Facebook was not considering a global rollout of GDPR rules.

“I was somewhat surprised by yesterday’s Reuters story that ran on this. The reporter asked me if … we were planning on running the controls for GDPR across the world and my answer was yes.” Source: EU Observer

So not only is there disagreement on what Zuckerberg said to Reuters, another European publication (NRKbeta) posted an article that the Norwegian Consumer Council reported Facebook to the Norwegian Data Protection Authority (DPA) for breaking existing EU laws.

This action was apparently in coordination with nine other consumer protection associations in six other European countries.

Potentially more bad news during a time when Facebook users are starting to distrust the company and it is trying to convince lawmakers in the U.S. they can manage the data properly.

There Will Be Changes

In an effort to clamp down on some issues immediately, Facebook has already changed access to its API for developers.

Social Media Management software such as Hootsuite and SocialPilot already sent out notifications to users that the changes impact social media marketing strategies.

This follows a recent change in policy by Twitter that makes mass marketing way more difficult as effectively the social media network no longer allows the same content to be tweeted.

The current focus on Facebook and its privacy issues will change how the social media network will operate going forward. It will change how they collect data and it will change what data they will make available.

And Facebook users will become more restrictive with their personal data and may even delete a lot of baseline data points such location and age.

There is virtually no doubt the detail (quality) of the demographic data of Facebook users will change and impact the effectiveness of Facebook targeted marketing campaigns.

Marketers will need to pay close attention to ROI of Facebook campaigns and make changes to avoid paying too much for data that may not be as good as it once was.

Do you use Facebook for marketing and have you considered the potential impact of the privacy issues at Facebook on your marketing campaigns? Head over to our Facebook Discussion Group or use the comments section below to voice your thoughts.

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