Facebook user data privacy

Facebook's online advertising platform offers a powerful way to reach audiences. It allows advertisers to target users based on demographics like age, interests and location. Advertisers who analyse the data can then make assumptions about users and target audiences with adverts based on this data.


Recently, however, Facebook has come under scrutiny because of two main issues.

1. Online advertising used in political campaigns

An analytics firm called Cambridge Analytica acquired Facebook data on 50 million American citizens which it later used to target adverts as part of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Hundreds of variations of adverts were targeted at audiences based on their likes, profile information and attitudes. Cambridge Analytica has also been involved in other political campaigns.

2. Facebook not securing its user data

Many organisations and advertisers have accessed Facebook user data for the purposes of targeting and advertising. For several years, Facebook has received criticism that it has not put a high enough priority on securing and protecting its user data. Some analysts state that Facebook has also not been vigilant enough about tackling the improper use of its platform. Some argue that Facebook is ignoring its responsibility given the amount of personal data it holds and the potential of its platform to influence human opinion and action.


What does this mean for digital marketing?

In an effort to ease public concerns, Mark Zuckerberg (CEO) and Sheryl Sandberg have publicly apologised and outlined Facebook's plan to remedy any misuse of the platform and how it intends to protect user data. On 28th March 2018, Facebook posted a blog detailing changes to their Privacy tools to address user concerns.

Given its reach and targeting capability, Facebook remains a powerful channel for advertisers to reach their audiences. However, some advertisers are concerned and others are reducing their advertising spend on Facebook. In early 2018, Facebook also announced proposed changes to its News Feed in light of cyberpsychology research linking depression and other negative outcomes with prolonged social media use.

Digital marketing is constantly evolving. We recommend reading a variety of news sources so that you can stay informed about this developing story and other industry trends.

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Written by: Robert Farrell

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