Devote Digital

Cambridge Analytica: Explanation and Impacts - Podcast Episode 8

In Episode 8, we give you an overview of the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal (when Mark Zuckerberg stood for trial at his Congress testimony!), and highlights the impacts on Facebook Advertising.

In a nutshell, the impacts cover implications on third-party data, chatbots and audience estimations.

was Facebook hacked?

In short, no. Facebook was not hacked by anyone.

Facebook has an app platform for open developers that grants API Access to anyone wanting to build an app as part of the Facebook experience. Part of that is allowing these developers access to Facebook's user data. 

In 2014, one developer in particular developed a personality quiz that was filled out by thousands of users on Facebook.  As a result, he gained access to all their personal information as well as their friends, activity Facebook permitted at the time but has since banned. He and then sold said data to Cambridge Analytica which violates Facebook's Terms of service as it took the data off the Facebook platform.

When Facebook found out, they did their due diligence and  took the necessary action needed to get the developer to delete  data that he had. He also told Cambridge Analytica to delete their data. As far as Facebook was concerned, all data had been deleted off both their platforms.

However, recently its come out that Cambridge Analytica did not actually delete their data and there is some controversy of whether the data was used to influence in the latest election in the US.

Impacts of Facebook changes on advertisers

Its pretty common practice for 3rd party data to be sold. It happens on Google and nearly every advertising platform out there. Websites that sell houses, loans and cars sell their data to data brokers. Facebook then buys access to this data from them but has since stopped this since the scandal to help protect privacy. As a result, advertisers no longer has access to data like who’s in the market to buy a car or has a mortgage. Instead, we will now have to rely on custom audiences created previously or any other data that you have.

Custom audience estimation features was lost. There was a security flaw where people playing around with their custom audiences by adding and taking away email addresses and combining that with specific interests targeting. Using that method, they were able to find out information about certain people based on their list.

Facebook have just taken estimation away but you can still do all that targeting. It doesn’t mean you can’t use custom audiences anymore, but they have taken the numbers away. It can be frustrating as this could influence budget allocation and sales funnels. There are other ways to get around this using Google Analytics and your own web analytics.

Another feature that was lost but has now been brought back are chat bots in Messenger experiences. 

What's next?

Facebook is under a lot of heat now but we think a lot more changes will come but lots of the lost features will come back as well like chat bots and even custom audience estimation once everything has settled.

If you were one of the businesses who only used Facebook advertising as your main traffic stream and was using certain targeting features using third-party data, you would have been pretty upset waking up the morning after Facebook changed the game. Which is why we recommend taking a holistic approach to digital marketing. Don't just focus all your energy on one aspect like Facebook ads but all aspects like SEO,  Google Adwords, email marketing etc so that you don’t lose your entire traffic stream if the game changes

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