Facebook’s Transparency and Privacy Standards and What it Means for Advertisers
Every morning when I open my email, I can count on receiving a handful of Facebook ad approvals from my job as a media director and at least one news article from my father. In his late 50’s- he is slightly tech savvy, although he still mails paper checks to pay his bills and refuses to use any social or financial apps on his phone. At least 5 times in the past few years, he has sent me news articles regarding the safety of social networks and how users should avoid logging in to apps that can store your digital data. Each time I respond, asking him to please stop sending these emails to everyone he knows because my job depends on people’s trust in the apps. When the Cambridge Analytica breach was announced, he asked if I “believed” him yet. Unfortunately, these data breaches are happening across every vertical, all over the world. In some ways, data breaches are becoming the new normal. When Congress asked Mark Zuckerburg to testify, I eagerly watched for what I hoped would be a robust discussion around data safety. I was disappointed, as were most people who understand the nuances of the digital world.
Most people are familiar with Mark Zuckerburg in some way or another. 2.2 Billion people across the globe are active Facebook users. 600 million people use Instagram. If you aren’t in that enormous segment of the population, you probably still know who he is due to the economic and political affects his tools can have. If you’re like me, and you are an active Facebook user, a social media marketer, and are heavily engaged in politics, Zuck’s apps can easily become a significant part of your day-to-day life. In 2004, when Facebook started as collegiate social network, nobody could have imagined that 12 years later it would significantly affect the democracy of the most powerful country in the world. The effects of Russian political interference and the subsequent Cambridge Analytica data breach are now being felt in the marketing world, as Facebook scrambles to comply with the transparency standards that were haphazardly set by Congress.
Facebook is an advertisers’ dream platform because of its self-identified user data, the simple, yet robust ad management tools, and the breadth of creative options it offers. Custom audiences, targeted lists based on an advertisers’ own data, and accurate behavioral targeting are the bread and butter of any efficient Facebook ad campaign. Over the past year, Facebook has quietly started to remove crucial advertising levers such as interest targeting segments, career related categories, and custom audience reach details. Just to underline how wide-ranging these changes are, earlier this month we lost the ability to target any audience with an interest in “Dentistry,” of all things. As they continue to remove advertiser options, their platform becomes less and less dreamy, leaving many advertisers scrambling to find new ways to create value on the platform, or turning to other platforms. As Facebook continues to show up in the news for data breaches of all kinds – including the 2016 Presidential Election, Cambridge Analytica, and now hardware contracts with multiple Chinese corporations, their users’ perception of the company will continue to decline. Their executive team must be astute in their task of balancing their advertisers’ requirements with their customers’ perception of data safety, or the company could end up losing on both ends.