If you’ve been keeping up with the national news for the last two weeks, you’ve heard the reports of political campaigns acquiring private data on millions of Facebook users. It has now sparked new questions about how the social media giant protects user information.
First of all, as a business advertising on Facebook, we are all thankful for the data which identifies personalities and buying trends of users. This doesn’t mean people’s personal information like credit cards, social security numbers and other secure information was ever shared via Facebook.
What does it mean?
This all plays a big part in Facebook’s algorithms, which have changed drastically in the last two years. The algorithms now only allow content that you are interested in to be in your newsfeed. To me, this isn’t a bad thing at all. It is a highly intelligent way of keeping users happy and engaged. For businesses, it also makes it more difficult to advertise because you need to pay attention to what users want to see on a daily basis and tailor your content to that audience. Otherwise, your content will go unseen. This is what I do on a daily basis for dozens of business accounts, study trends in order to make sure the business pages are reaching the most customers.
Now, back to Cambridge Analytica. What’s the big deal? The firm offered tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior. This behavior was then, allegedly, used to target voters for the election. This app has since been removed from Facebook but there are reports that the data still exists, so this is why Facebook is being scrutinized.
What kind of information was collected and how was it acquired?
The data 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 has always prohibited this kind of data to be sold or transferred “to any ad network, data broker or other advertising service” so the question everyone has been asking is, was Facebook hacked? No one really knows for sure.
What is Facebook doing to fix the situation?
Really, there isn’t much they can do about it at this point. Once the data is out, there isn’t really a way to recall it. They can conduct all the forensic audits they want, but the information will remain out there in some form, and will likely remain useable and indicative. For damage control, Facebook needs to show users that it is improving, learned its lessons and their systems are actually now better for it.
We’ll see in the next year whether or not users pull away from the social giant or whether it will blow over and everyone will go back to using Facebook as usual. As already stated, no sensitive information was really obtained but it is simply a matter of users trusting Facebook to keep up with their social habits without exploiting it for political reasons.
What do you think? Does it bother you that Facebook tracks your likes and, in turn, creates a personality profile of your daily habits in order for businesses to advertise to you? We want to know! Let us know on Facebook!
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