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Cambridge Analytica data breach: Advertisers see no reason to stay away from Facebook in India

23-March-2018
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Cambridge Analytica data breach: Advertisers see no reason to stay away from Facebook in India

It is mostly business as usual for brands and agencies that have been using the data that Facebook provides them with to target audiences on the platform. Advertisers, exchange4media spoke to, said they do not have a compelling reason to dissociate from the social media platform yet. The Cambridge Analytica data mining incident has given rise to conversations among advertisers and marketers, but most of it seems to be about trust on the platform than real-life implications on the industry. 

The reason it is business as usual is because advertisers “access data in broad cohorts” and not in terms of individual profiles, explained Gautam Mehra, Chief Data Officer, ‎Dentsu Aegis Network. 

Facebook is in a hot mess over Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of data because “the social media platform did not have post audit of how app developers are using the data made available to them,” Mehra further explained. 

Apps that interface with Facebook normally seek consent from the user to access data, and that is more often than not a mere formality and users don’t always know what they are signing up for. Mark Zuckerberg, in his statement to users on data misuse, noted that Facebook will now conduct a “full investigation” of apps that were “operating before we had the more restrictive platform policies” and do a “full forensic audit” of “any app that has any suspicious activity.”

It is also noteworthy that the social network founder said, in an interview, that the feedback he has received from the community and from the world “is that privacy and having the data locked down is more important to people than maybe making it easier to bring more data and have different kinds of experiences.” 

It follows that Facebook will clamp down on data portability across apps. Data portability has been responsible for giving users a seamless experience across apps. Advertisers could use this function to serve users with offers and targeted ads. Mehra felt that one of the immediate implications could be with regards to CRM integrations that use the Facebook platform.

“Companies and developers that provide these solutions may come under a lot of scrutinies now. And there could be certain limitations applicable to them.” Apps may now have to try a little harder to get that consent from users. 

Advertising on the Facebook platform has nothing to do with user consent given to app developers. So I don’t think this will impact how advertisers use the platform to target users,” Mehra observed.

As far as advertisers are concerned, Facebook has already curtailed niche groups that could be targeted for advertising, he said. 

Observing that hyper-targeting in and of itself is not malicious, Almitra Karnik Head of Marketing Clevertap, said Facebook cannot wash its hands off this mess and should focus on creating an ethical ecosystem that can benefit both the consumer and advertiser. 

Karnik compared the social media marketing ecosystem to a zero-sum game.

“If the consumer wins, the advertiser loses and if the advertiser wins the consumer loses. That should not be the case.” Citing the example of the CAN-Spam Act of 2003 that regulates email marketing, she said that there is a need to develop an ecosystem where the consumers, advertisers can trust each other and work together. 

Rahul Vengalil, CEO, What Clicks (digital marketing audit firm), said even though advertisers may debate and discuss this hot topic for a while, they will not be able to take substantial actions to course correct.

This could be because “they aren’t able to see any tangible fallout, unlike ad fraud or viewability which is measured. The story is the same for brand-safety. There are no measuring platforms for the negative impact at the moment.” In addition, “advertisers rely on the agencies and developers to create Facebook enabled platforms and have never created any guidelines that need to be followed.” 

Facebook’s valuation dropped by $50 bn over the past week, and Whatsapp co-founder Brian Acton asked his Twitter followers to #deletefacebook. India, which is the largest market for the social media platform with around 250 mn users, is far cry from boycotting the platform, said digital media buyers. 

What really will impact Facebook and even YouTube/Google is the loss of trust on the platforms.

“Multiple incidents have piled up over time. From bad metrics to political manipulation of news, each new development is creating distrust. Facebook and YouTube need to seriously consider this erosion of trust if they want to continue to be partners to businesses,” Mehra noted. 

Businesses may lose trust in the platform, but passive users may continue to use the platform. “With the current issues that have surfaced, the onus will have to be on consumers or users of Facebook first to ensure that their data is not misused. We should individually think twice before giving permissions for the usage of data, cautioned Vengalil. 

Interestingly, Vengalil revealed that at What Clicks, the team “always insists on creating guidelines for usage of data, ad tech platforms, etc but hasn’t found any takers, because of the lack of tangible impact.” 

The series of events that the industry has seen unfold over the week may be a telling lesson on the importance of such guidelines and regulations.

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