Facebook Users, I Am Genuinely Shocked By Your Ignorance

Facebook Users, I Am Genuinely Shocked By Your Ignorance
A Marketers Perspective on the Cambridge Analytica Scandal

Facebook users, I mean no offense, but I am genuinely shocked by your ignorance regarding data collection from firms such as Cambridge Analytica. It seems to me this is a scenario we are all very familiar with. Did you really not understand what was happening when you clicked on that quiz link? 

You see a post on Facebook that says, "What color is your aura?" Or, "Which of your friends has a secret crush on you?" You click. Facebook IMMEDIATELY WARNS YOU that this is a third party company that is accessing your personal data. You ignore the warning and proceed because, well, you've always wanted to know what color your aura is. Fast forward to a few months later, and you're angry at Facebook for letting them have your data. 

Huh? 

The truth is, all marketers, whether they work for a retail business or a politician, are accessing and/or purchasing data about you based on your internet use - not just from Facebook, but all across the internet. Access to this data has been a goldmine for marketers because we can now serve up content to people who may actually be interested in it, rather than just taking a stab in the dark. 

But don't tell me you didn't already know this was happening. When you visited your favorite retail website and pondered purchasing that pair of shoes, and then 5-minutes later they appeared in your Facebook newsfeed and on every website you visited, that wasn't destiny telling you to buy the shoes, it was a marketer, like myself, using behavioral data to target you.

I'm not trying to justify Cambridge Analytica's tactics. Pulling data in the manner in which they did it, was no doubt shady, maybe even illegal. But why is the media placing blame on Facebook and screaming for an explanation from Mark Zuckerberg? Scammy behavior happens all across the internet - why single out Facebook when, in fact, it is the ONLY place where you're actually getting warned first? Did Hotmail give you a pop-up notification when that prince from Nigeria emailed you? Nope. Did Google warn you that the fat burning fruit from the Brazilian rainforest was too good to be true? Of course not. Facebook, on the other hand, said, "Hey, you sure about this?" And you clicked through anyhow.  

My concern is that the use of data collection in general is being attacked as a result of this scandal because of its association with the Trump campaign. I will tell you, I am no Trump supporter, but this was certainly not the only candidate to use data collection to perfect their target audience reach. In fact, during the campaign, I followed Bernie Sanders' social media campaign closely because I wanted to learn from it. It was one of the most brilliant social media targeting campaigns I have seen to date, a master class for a social media marketer. I watched in awe and admiration as the social efforts gained momentum and took him from a long shot to a contender. I was equally shocked at how lacking the Clinton social media presence was in comparison. Did the Sanders' campaign use shady quizzes to collect that data? I have no idea. Could they have accessed the same information without doing so? Absolutely. 

Politicians have been working with shady organizations for political gain for as long as any of us can remember. What's different now are the tools. But is the problem here really the tool? Has it ever been? I don't think so. 

While regulations may be put into place, spammers and scammers are still going to do their thing. But on the flip side, data collection does improve our experience on the internet. Advertising will never go away, but it can be less annoying if it is personally targeted to you. When I watch television, almost every commercial I see is irrelevant to me; Pampers, Mountain Dew, and Cialis come to mind. It's no wonder the television industry is being disrupted, they are SO far behind. But when I go on the internet, there are those damn shoes again. It must be destiny.