This month in Europe and in the United States, all eyes have been on Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook. Those eyes haven’t been filled with admiration, but scrutiny. Here’s why:
The Cambridge Analytica Data Scandal: What is it?
Aleksander Kogan, a researcher and app developer at Cambridge University, created a quiz app on Facebook that he used to collect information from approximately 87 million people. Then, the data got turned over to UK-based political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, who used it to help Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election.
According to Kogan in a CNBC interview, these types of data transactions are common practice: "In reality, I think the truth is, we've got tens of thousands of other apps who did the same thing, probably a much bigger scale than me…And they're all out there and Facebook has no accounting for it."
Suspicions that Facebook has not been honest about data collection policies have been a concern for a while. The western world fears that social media could be weaponized to undermine democracy. UK and European Parliaments, and the United States Congress recently had Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to speak on behalf of his company regarding how Facebook collects, protects, and uses user data.
So far, despite the data scandal, two congressional hearings, and the hashtag #deletefacebook trending on Twitter, Facebook usage in the United States hasn’t dropped. But according to CNBC, Facebook agrees with Kogan, and warns investors that Cambridge Analytica is probably not alone.
What changes is Facebook making to prevent data mishandling?
"We anticipate that we will discover and announce additional incidents of misuse of user data or other undesirable activity by third parties," Facebook said in their quarterly report. "We may also be notified of such incidents or activity via the media or other third parties." Facebook is currently auditing third-party applications for suspicious activity and intends to ban people engaged in data misuse.
To get ahead of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and the ePrivacy Directive, Facebook announced back in March 2018 that it was ending its Partner Categories feature.
What is the 'Partner Categories' feature?
Partner Categories, which debuted in 2013, gave Facebook advertisers access to user data that was not collected on Facebook, but collected by “top online and offline purchase data providers Datalogix, Epsilon, Acxiom, and BlueKai.”
Before Partner Categories was permanently shut down, here’s how it worked: If I was a Facebook user who drank soda but hadn’t input that I liked soda into Facebook, Facebook still found out through its partnership with top data providers. Then, Facebook profited from the fact that I was a soda drinker by making that data available to Facebook advertisers who want to market to people who drink soda.
What does that mean for real estate marketing?
With Facebook only collecting user information from user interactions with Facebook (Facebook profiles, pages, groups, and ads), Facebook targeted advertising is going to get a lot less detailed.
Facebook is still the most powerful social media channel in the world, so don’t stop using it. But be smart—don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Use multiple social media channels. Take advantage of detailed, targeted advertising while it’s available, but prioritize engagement in your marketing campaigns.
In the long run, engagement will help you save money and insulate you from being crippled thanks to new, perhaps government-imposed regulations and changes in data collection and privacy.