So I’ve waited a little time, after the fallout from the Facebook data scandal to give my own tuppence worth on this issue.
Obviously, in the spirit of full disclosure, I am an internet marketer; Facebook is amongst my armoury, I’m not against Facebook providing me with all sorts of data around potential leads that I can use (and provide) as part of our marketing efforts.
So therein lies the dilemma. I see it as three things really.
1. People who have given their data to Facebook
2. Facebook’s inability/unwillingness(?) to protect their data
3. Cambridge Analytica’s use or acquisition of that data.
I’m not going to defend Mark Zuckerberg at all, but is all of this not a natural progression? Bearing in mind the way people are targeted by companies from a commercial perspective.
You know how it works, (not just on Facebook, but everywhere) you search for ‘computer screen’ on Google because you want one for your home office, and every website you visit then has ads for computer screens, right?
Cookies are data which tells advertisers which ads to serve you, so surely this what’s been exposed this week is simply an extension – albeit a much more sinister one – of that.
I’m not saying that it is right that it happens like that, but I am saying it’s a world we have all subscribed to, and I’ve been a little curious to see the surprise with which people have reacted.
To me it seems obvious that when you submit so much personal information to a website, and countless third party extensions to that website, that it’s going to be harvested and used. Also, it’s obvious that the people who want to use it will be using it for commercial purposes.
I have no doubt that Facebook haven’t protected the data in the way they should have, and maybe their actions over the last few days see here is a bit like “shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted”, as my old grandma used to say.
No doubt Cambridge Analytica took full advantage of what they could lay their hands on, I’m not in a position to say or comment on what or whom were culpable.
One thing that I do know, from my recent visit to the Facebook HQ in San Francisco, is that everyone that works there is committed to providing the best service and the best platform they can. They do truly believe that they are doing a good thing and connecting the world.
Maybe their fault is that they have the latest, craziest most exciting tools at their fingertips. What they are doing there is incredible, but perhaps they’ve not taken an ‘holistic’ view (a phrase you know I like; for good reason). They perhaps have been caught up in all the future potential, and not actually thought about ensuring what they already have works, and is ‘safe’.
Facebook have recently changed the way they operate for publishers, throttling the reach of posts, primarily because they wanted people to pay to ‘boost’ their articles so more people would see them. Recent changes to the way they display news posts in people’s feeds have had a big impact too – in some cases forcing businesses to shut down because they were so dependent on traffic from Facebook.
Clearly it’s a not a great idea to build your business model around traffic from one source. You end up reliant on that source, and if they change the way they operate you end up in trouble! The idea that Facebook would be a free driver of massive amounts of traffic forever was never the right approach to take and thankfully we’ve never been that dependent on them. (We’re very holistic!!)
Nevertheless, people can often get stuck in certain habits online. Facebook has become a kind of online experience where people base everything they see, believe and think entirely on what they get to see in their feeds.
Perhaps I’m the only one who isn’t that bothered about the data I give to Facebook, or any online company really. I’m probably wrong, but I am under no misapprehension that my data is available for people to target me for offers.
My summary is very simple. We never depend too much on one source online. When you’re at someone else’s party, you have to understand it’s up to them when they turn off the lights and ask you to go home. As long as we know we have a VIP invite to another party up the road, we’ll always be dancing!