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After Facebook scandal, social giant releases data and privacy updates

Facebook’s latest scandal has ignited a debate about privacy and data collection, sending chills up some people’s spines and frustrating others. This increased scrutiny on Facebook makes this a good point for us to discuss its impact on digital marketing.

In our post today, we explore what this scandal is and how Facebook is working to improve their privacy policies and ad practices.

What is this scandal?

Back in 2014, a researcher at Cambridge University named Aleksandr Kogan created an app that users downloaded which gathered private information from their profiles and profiles of their friends. Users who downloaded the app were paid for their information and were told it was going to be used for academic reasons. The friends of these users however, gave no consent and were not paid.

At this time, Facebook allowed the collection of unknowing friend’s data for app creators and academic reasons. This type of information gathering has now been banned by Facebook.

The information of over 50 million Facebook users, collected by the app, was used by Cambridge Analytica to create 30 million “psychographic” profiles that could help design targeted political ads.

In 2015, Facebook discovered the app created by Kogan violated policies when it gave information to Cambridge Analytica. The app was removed from Facebook in 2015 and Facebook claims they had been assured that Cambridge Analytica and others had deleted this data.

However, Facebook has been under criticism that they did not take enough action against Cambridge Analytica. Facebook did not inform its users of this issue and did not suspend Cambridge Analytica and like-firms until this year, after a whistleblower exposed the story to the public.

Facebook and social media as a whole has been under attack since the news broke in March. Many have suggested trying other social media sites, or giving up on social media altogether. It is worth noting that Facebook does own other social media companies, including Instagram and WhatsApp. Facebook also owns Oculus VR,, and many more brands.

What steps is Facebook taking to address it?

In the past two weeks, Facebook has unveiled a number of measures designed to address user concerns and regain user faith in the platform. Here are just a few of them:

#1. Updated privacy controls

Facebook has recently redesigned their settings menu on mobile devices to make it easier for users to find their privacy controls. They’ve created new privacy shortcuts to help explain the functionality of settings and how security controls work.

In addition, Facebook now gives you the ability to see and control how your information, or information collected about you, is being used to feed you targeted ads. Explore your own Ad Preferences and information by heading over to the “Ad Preferences” section.

Facebook has also attempted to make the way their ads function and target people more transparent.

#2. Removing third-party ad targeting options

In the wake of the scandal breaking, Facebook conducted their own audits and halted app and bot approvals. They also removed the option to utilize third-party provided data within their ad tools. This means businesses can no longer dive into highly detailed targeting for their ads.

Below is an example of what this type of targeting looked like. Even with this vault of information gone, advertisers have a wide array of information to still use, including: advanced geo-targeting, interest targeting, website traffic retargeting, and basic demographics targeting.

In combination, these are powerful tools advertisers can take advantage of on Facebook.

#3. Giving users the ability to download personal data

You are able to download your Facebook data from the general account settings section. From here, you can see places you have “checked into,” Facebook searches, the IP addresses of everywhere you have logged into Facebook, information such as political or religious views, a history of chat conversations, and even an archive of the “pokes” you have received and given (an ancient Facebook feature from the platform’s early days), and much more.

Here’s where you can learn more about your Facebook data from within the settings on your profile.

What does this all mean?

Facebook’s latest update provides everyone with more transparency in how information is being collected and used. The company is walking a fine line between trying to provide users with more privacy without disrupting the ability for advertisers to use Facebook as a viable way to reach new customers.

Yet, with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg set to testify to Congress next week, it’s clear that the social media giant isn’t done answering questions.

What do you think? As a user, do these updates give you a sense of relief towards Facebook’s data collection and targeting abilities? Or, are you shocked by how much they know and have collected?

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