Put simply: What do I need to know about the current Facebook scandals and how does it affect me?

Usually, I add a fun spin and conversational touch to my blogs (‘cos I’m fun like that!) but this time, I just want you to have a basic understanding of what’s really going on, so Jess is going full info + fact mode.

Towards the end, I have shared some major changes all advertisers need to be aware of coming into effect globally on May 25 2018.

A quick disclaimer: Please understand that this is derived from my research, my opinions and my knowledge. That may not be the perfect knowledge based on political campaigns, the tech used, the companies in great detail or the development of apps etc. This is intended to be useful, basic information for those who want to wrap their heads around it but don’t need the binary code version of events. Have you found yourself trying to read about it thought: In English, please…? This is what I intended to provide.

Take your questions to the group by clicking here when you’re done if you like. This affects your advertising campaigns big time.

So on Wednesday 11 April, Mark Zuckerberg sat before the Senate in a Hearing where he answered a load of questions regarding Facebook’s part in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The scandal and how we got here

In 2014 it was possible for developers to access your friend’s list and personal information such as email address, name, date of birth… right down to the pages you had liked via apps which used the Facebook API for interaction. Provided you accepted those terms of use for the platform, and the app notified you it was going to be accessing this information (of which you still had to agree once more at time of install or login or use), the developer would gain access to that information.

270,000 people completed a quiz by developer Kogan, and as a result, Facebook is now saying approximately and potentially up to 87 million people’s data has been harvested by the developer. As a developer, Kogan had to explain to Facebook what he was collecting data for, and why the app required access. He said it was to further his academic research but this was untrue; Kogan was collecting information for Cambridge Analytica (CA) for ads targeting purposes with a political intent.

Fast forward to 2015 – Facebook worked out that the data could be used for ‘evil’ and prevented apps from accessing that level of data. In 2015 Facebook conceded that the data from Kogan was being used to create ad campaigns for Ted Cruz.

It is widely reported that CA used the data for ‘psychographic micro-targeting’. This is using very fine, raw data (such as calculating out the colour of someone’s skin or sexual orientation or religious views) to manipulate votes by feeding them selective news, updates and information in order to perhaps either swing votes in your favour or paint an ugly picture of a political opponent, for example. CA managed to do refine it so much by using complex data calculations – this is not the information that was straight out provided via Facebook. Important distinction.

Of course, Ted Cruz did not progress with his political goals and as such, it is reported the company moved onto supporting the campaigns of now President Donald Trump. This is now a theory in contention.  Hence a massive highlight on the issue which was rather quietly conceded and addressed in 2015.

Kogan sold the data to CA for them to use in their political ads campaigns.

Read that again.  Facebook did not collect and sell your data. A developer found a way to access it and used it incorrectly.

So who is in the wrong?

Let me make this clear: The data which was used by CA was NOT “leaked”. Your address, credit cards, kids’ faces and schools… none of this information was breached. It was not private data which Facebook allowed to be stolen. It was public information, provided by the users themselves. The issue is, they either didn’t know or didn’t care it was available to advertisers and developers.

One could argue Facebook is in the wrong for allowing so much data to be accessed by developers. This would be accurately fair in my opinion.

One would certainly argue that CA are in the wrong for using purchased data to manipulate unwitting citizens in a democracy. This is abhorrent and accurately fair blame placing also.

Kogan is absolutely in the wrong for misleading Facebook users and misusing their personal data to make a buck.

And I am sorry (watch me cop it for this) – but users who had no idea their information was known to and used by the Facebook platform are in the wrong.

“But no one reads the T&C’s!” I hear you cry. Well, you should. If you don’t, that’s on you.

 What actually happened with the data?

Ok, so personal data for approximately 87 million people was unethically acquired, illegally sold and immorally used. In what way, you ask?

They used it to target you.

In the same way that I would target women aged 25 – 47 who are interested shopping, jewellery, specific jewellery stores and live in Brisbane for a jewellery designer I run ads for, CA used the data to target certain people of certain groups and locations and interests to manipulate the information they received about political situations.

They found you via ‘psychographic micro-targeting’.  For example, it is suggested (in some articles – do your own research as I am not a journalist) that the Trump campaigns targeted an area in the US called “Little Haiti” to spread accusations surrounding the Clinton Foundations use of raised Haiti funds.

“I am disturbed that I am getting builders ads on Facebook when my wife and I are thinking of building a house. I think my data has been stolen and am thinking of leaving Facebook as I am unsafe”.

This is a real comment I saw in a thread about Facebook’s data scandal this morning.  I’m going to break this down really simple, so that a) the reader understands why this is quite ridiculous (in my own personal opinion and yes that comes from a FB marketer’s perspective), and b) to help those who may not know, how conventional (and white hat!) ad campaigns are targeted to the most relevant people.

  • If you are thinking of buying a house, and you get ads helping you learn about new builders who may be able to help – is this a bad thing? Do you feel mad at Newspaper ads that appear relevant to your current situation?
  • Next – where in your data did you privately store information about thinking of building?
  • If you are thinking of building a house, chances are quite high you may be either newly married, engaged or perhaps in the age range of 25 – 40. Have you given any of this information to Facebook?
  • If you are looking to buy a house, it’s pretty likely you have used the internet to explore this option is some way or another. Perhaps you’ve tagged your wife in a bathroom design ad or post? Maybe you have clicked on a conveyancer’s ad or post? Maybe you follow realestate.com.au because why wouldn’t you? You are looking to build a house. These actions tell Facebook what you are interested in. sometimes these interests are able to be targeted so that brands can find the right audience for their industry or offer.
  • Further to the above, have you been visiting websites based around building, new homes, design, renovations etc.? Yeah, they have cookies on them and usually (if the company has good Facebook ads support – like me!) they will have the Facebook tracking pixel on there too. The brand can then send ads to you on the Facebook platforms based on what you clicked and looked at.
  • You might also simply live in a location that the brand wants to be better known within

Here are some screenshots of some targeting techniques able to be used by Facebook marketers.

Facebook scandals Facebook scandals Facebook scandals Facebook scandals

Is there cause to be concerned?

I’m going to say yes and no. No, because you are only targeted by the information you willingly provide to the brand and to Facebook (provided they run an ethical operation!) and yes because it is our right as platform users to be concerned about how that information is protected by those we share it with.

Is there cause for mass hysteria and paranoia? I believe not. Do what you want, but I think it is better to watch, learn and study what is happening and how you can protect yourself if you feel the need rather than running around with your arms flailing about.

Should you delete your Facebook account? If you want. Honestly – if you want to, do it. Just spare us all the big “I’m leaving” PSA. (and don’t share your glorious departure with the #DeleteFacebook tag on Instagram. That’s an oxymoron. Plus, I can still find you).

Does Facebook deserve the negative attention they are getting? Well, I love Facebook, obviously. It feeds me and pays my bills while allowing me to help real businesses do great things and achieve true growth. But I am also going to say that they do deserve it because it’s a massive wake up call for Zuck. Since 2009 he has been apologising for privacy concerns and promising to be better, and now, with a Senate Hearing, he has no choice but to follow through.

On a more personal note, I, as a marketer who has made advertising on the platform my livelihood, am quite annoyed about it. When Facebook breaks trust with the users, it poses the very serious threat of hurting my business. When users don’t trust Facebook, they don’t trust what I do. My husband is a great salesman and can overcome any objection, and I’m flipping good at what I do (we are, as a whole, excellent at what we do – as we are not limited to me and Facebook, but also Google PPC) but trust in the platform I apply my skills and abilities is uber important.

Changes coming May 25

In brief (and I will write something more solid very soon!) here are the major changes you need to be aware of, taking effect May 25, 2018, globally.  The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (Regulation (EU) 2016/679) is a regulation by which the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission intend to strengthen and unify data protection for all individuals within the European Union (EU). Facebook are using the guidelines within the GDPR to model their privacy and advertising Terms of service globally, although the GDPR is only applied to the EU legally.

“if you are an agency acting on behalf of an advertiser you are responsible for the data that is collected through Facebook or uploaded as custom audiences.”

If you are an agency, you need to be able to prove that you have ensured your clients are aware of and are working on the new terms. The best way to achieve this is to add a clause to your Service Agreement. When you have done this, send the new section to them and get at least an electronic signature.

“You (or partners acting on your behalf) may not place pixels associated with your Business Manager or ad account on websites that you do not own without our written permission”

No more sharing pixels across ad accounts or businesses manager accounts. It is unclear at this stage how we access written permission. I have been waiting for a Facebook rep to join me in chat for 3 hours at the time of writing this and counting. Looks like people have questions. The longest I have waited for one on one support is 2 hours!

“If you have a pixel on your site, You must clearly warn and advise users that you are collecting information.”

This is the same as we have seen with cookies warnings for years. You need to have this on every single landing page and very clearly visible (no hiding it in the footers!). You will also need to link them to where they are able to make the considered choice to continue using your site (which is what your label is intended to do; give them the option to continue or opt out and leave) such as http://www.aboutads.info/choices and http://www.youronlinechoices.eu/).

“People who manage Pages with large numbers of followers will need to be verified. Those who manage large Pages that do not clear the process will no longer be able to post. This will make it much harder for people to administer a Page using a fake account”

No more using fake accounts to manage Facebook pages. You will need to be verified as a true user (a real human!).  It is unclear at this stage what a “large following” constitutes.

A lot of this information is still being figured out by the marketers in Facebook land, and the best thing you can do is join some groups or forums to stay on top of it as more information and compliance instructions come to light.

So what now?

If you are a brand that is advertising, you need to ensure these changes are adhered to by the 25th. Failure to do so will very likely result in deleted ad accounts, pages and other assets. If you are a user, go through your settings and privacy and make sure you are happy with the information you have shared and what is accessible.

To get familiar with why brands are targeting you, use the ‘why am I seeing this?’ feature on all sponsored posts in the feeds. Learn why brands are targeting you. Or download a copy of your data https://www.facebook.com/help/302796099745838

What not to do? Unless the advert is totally inappropriate, you find it actually offensive, or there is something really, really wrong, please DON’T mark it as spam or report it. It’s a bit of D— move considering someone’s hard work and money is going into trying to further their business and help more customers and clients. Just scroll on.

I take questions, help people and run awesome ad campaigns, I also train and consult.

Hit me up whichever way you like:



Here are some great resources to learn more, in depth at Vox.com

Image credit to CNN.com

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