On March 16, 2018, both The New York Times and The Guardian published articles exposing how the 2016 election consultants used the data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica to gain illegal access to the Facebook data of 50 million users to manipulate voters before the presidential election.
It’s a huge scandal in terms of what business executives like Mark Warner are calling “social-media manipulation” in the election that has had massive consequences for the American people.
While most digital marketers are very familiar already with the process of mining social-media data to create highly targeted advertisements, and this principle by itself is not illegal, Cambridge Analytica worked with Facebook in an unethical way. The Cambridge Analytica team collected their data in a way that violated Facebook’s user-privacy laws. Plus, they also did not tell anyone taking their “personality quizzes” that they were using this private information to target people with political advertisements.
Critics blame Facebook for knowing that Cambridge Analytica was collecting this data, allowing them to continue doing so and not even forcing them to delete the illegally obtained private data. Facebook also kept quiet about the affair so that no one knew that Cambridge Analytica was converting their personal information into ads designed to help Trump win the last election.
Adding to this hype is the growing public awareness that some users have been spreading fake political stories on Facebook that went viral faster than the authentic news stories themselves, which is a source of anger for many users. Plus, some of Facebook’s creators expressed public regret about building this platform in the first place, which has led to an increasingly negative opinion of Facebook.
The key issue is about restricting developers’ access to personal data and the data of all of your friend networks on Facebook. Zuckerberg has announced that Facebook will begin auditing all of the developers who have been collecting data in a manner similar to the way Cambridge Analytica had been, like through quizzes, etc.
The Three Main Issues Are:
- What is the level of data-privacy on Facebook?
- How can they rebuild Facebook’s newsfeed integrity so that posts come from trustworthy sources?
- What will the Federal Trade Commission decide after investigating Facebook’s data-privacy practices?
Who’s protesting Facebook now?
Mark Zuckerberg didn’t respond to the issue publicly on CNN after the #DeleteFacebook campaign went viral internationally.
The Verge also published a report on March 20th that, ” … in a post on Twitter today, the [Co-Founder of WhatsApp] Mr. Acton told his followers to delete Facebook.”
Following this move on Twitter, the tech-industry billionaire Elon Musk officially deleted both Tesla and SpaceX’s Facebook fan pages by March 23, 2018 in response to these charges.
How Should Digital Marketers Address the Concerns to Their Customers?
You likely spend part of your digital marketing budget on Facebook ads. It would be absurd not to. After all, Facebook knows more about people than they know about themselves, making it easier than it’s ever been to tailor digital advertising to the right customers.
Keep in mind, however, that the changes we’re going to see on Facebook were already due to come some time ago, and not everything about Facebook will change. For example, posts with comments will still attract more visibility in news feeds than something with only a lot of likes or shares. That’s why building organic audiences will become more important than ever.
For these reasons, marketers still need Facebook. Moving forward, we all need to use a little more caution in marketing campaigns to test for what’s working to reach a good audience. We need to practice information transparency by always communicating publicly to everyone about what we’re doing when collecting data.
Using Facebook as a springboard to lead an audience to your website is great. Relying on Facebook completely to carry your entire marketing campaign is not a great idea though. No marketer should invest fully into one online platform alone.
Finally, as the older generation of marketers has always said, building an email list could still be the most-reliable form of marketing in the future. No matter what happens to any platform, no one can take your email contacts away from you unless you obtained that contact information against the will of those people.
If you’ve got questions about your data security and compliance with the latest data-privacy laws, then contact us to get answers.