Facebook on the hot seat – what your business needs to know (Social Buzz column)
Cambridge Analytica: What happened?
During March, multiple news sources published stories reporting 50 million Facebook users’ data was accessed without their knowledge or permission. Since then, Facebook has adjusted that number to reflect up to 87 million public profiles.
This wasn’t a more traditional breach where they hacked passwords and other sensitive information. Instead, users’ data was captured via an app that was using Facebook to connect with users.
During 2015, when this data was accessed, there was no mechanism in place to ensure developers weren’t sharing or misusing that data. There are measures in place now, but the unknown details around this are part of what has sparked so many questions.
A succinct overview of how user data was accessed: Facebook users who chose to use their Facebook Login to engage with this app shared their profile information.
During 2015, this also allowed the app developer access to the user’s friend list and some of their profile information. The app developer saved this information to their database rather than deleting it.
The data was then provided to the British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, This information was then used to build psychographic profiles in order to better target users with ads. More specifically, because of Cambridge Analytica’s business, it was to target voters.
Facebook is now allowing users to check if their data has been accessed via their Help Center.
“How does Facebook work?” is a very difficult question answer. The reason this question is so hard to answer is because, at its core, Facebook is designed to provide a unique experience to everyone who uses the platform.
It also can be very multi-dimensional and as you start to understand one aspect, you discover that you may not understand other parts of it.
Every Facebook feed is tailored to users’ interests, and it is likely that no two feeds look identical. Part of this is what makes Facebook so unique and part of this is what makes it very hard to have a universal understanding of Facebook and how it works.
During Mark Zuckerberg’s Congressional testimony on April 10, he faced a range of questions that included a basic understanding of Facebook, data security, Facebook’s terms of service, as well as some use questions that Zuckerberg struggled to answer clearly.
After Zuckerberg’s first day of testifying, the reoccurring theme as people analyzed the testimony was: If Congress doesn’t understand Facebook, how can the general public?
The five-hour hearing seemed to wrap up on the idea that, as the Cambridge Analytica scandal showed, the public never realized how much information they give up to Facebook.
Some people are moving away from Facebook, for now, but the majority of users are staying. This is the part that really matters for your business.
Data and security of that data will continue to be a conversation along with regulation as the utopia of Facebook and many other platforms across the Internet have been exposed.
One thing that is coming down the pipeline in the very near future is ad transparency. Zuckerberg actually noted during his testimony how this could possibly make Facebook’s ads and Pages one of the most transparent ad platforms.
So what does that look like?
View Ads is a feature Facebook has tested in Canada and will be rolling out globally that allows users to view all ads a Page is running. This is an effort on Facebook’s part to be transparent about the ads that a user will actually see in their feed as well as ads a user would not necessarily see in their use of Facebook.
This transparency could actually become advantageous for a brand. Think of a time that you’ve seen an ad or something in your Facebook feed that you’ve wanted to go back to when you actually have a moment to look at it. This is possible with some activity on Facebook now, but not ads.
So, now a user can go to your Page and view the ad they may have seen earlier, as well as see any other ads you’re running. They also can consume additional information on your page, which is what you really want anyway, so it could definitely play out as a win-win for brands and users.
Facebook also is increasing transparency and accountability for political and issue ads by incorporating a label noting it as such, as well as an authorization process for pages running such ads.
Lastly, Pages with large numbers of followers will need to be verified and those that do not clear Facebook’s process will no longer be able to post.
The ad and Page transparency are the biggest pieces businesses active on Facebook need to be aware of right now. There still is a lot of unknown though, which isn’t exactly anything new, but now there is certainly a bigger conversation happening around platforms like Facebook.
Brook Bentley is Sierra Nevada Media Group’s social media and content manager. You can contact her at email@example.com for a free social media evaluation.
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