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Facebook's Privacy Paradox
By: Danny Flamberg
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Data-driven and performance marketers are scratching their heads over the Facebook scandal. We know and work with many sites who gather and monetize their data. We use robust datasets from third-party vendors to develop high propensity target populations. We don’t think that the use of sophisticated data appending, mining or modeling to sell political candidates is any different than the techniques we use for selling all kinds of goods and services.
 
The privacy issue, in the media and in DC, seems to focus on who is using the data and what nefarious purposes it’s being put to use for. The culprits seem to be the Trump/Mercer gang who understood, bankrolled and used our tool set. It’s not clear if, how or when they violated Facebook’s terms of use, or who stole what. They clearly penetrated Facebook’s walled garden.
 
The Facebook team are madly trying to cover their tracks. They have consistently used the data they generate to make billions. They created hundreds of pre-sorted audience channels and peddled them to B2C and B2B brands. They encouraged app-makers to create engaging content that would simultaneously prompt extended or repeat visits and collect data. They made it easy for marketers to combine first party and CRM data in the Custom Audiences and Look-a-Like Audiences tools.  They struck alliances with Acxiom and Experian --- now suspended --- to offer advertisers more data to make better targeting decisions. Facebook is all about aggregating, modeling and selling access to data and defined audiences.
 
The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal brings privacy concerns to the forefront.
Yet concerns about privacy are fluid. If you ask someone if they want the government or big business to know everything about them, the answer is inevitably “no.” Yet, in most surveys and on most sites or apps, consumers willingly trade their data for access, information and discounts.
 
There are countless studies concluding that privacy is an important issue. And yet consumers implicitly understand the quid pro quo --- data for deals. In many cases, consumers complain. They want brands to use the data they’ve collected more effectively to ensure that messages and ads are personal, useful, timely and relevant.
 
The paradox is that consumers are concerned generally about being spied upon but they accept the notion that genuine privacy is no more. The General Data Protection Rules (GDPR), now taking affect in the European Union, seek to articulate this value exchange clearly and force consumers to affirmatively agree to the use of personal data. The new rules require marketers to acquire and use personal data only with active consent.
 
In the wake of a public scandal, there will be media scrutiny, politicians posturing, highly charged hearings, threats from regulators and teeth gnashing by brands, platforms, publishers, ad agencies and marketers. Facebook will do a few mea culpas and announce a bunch of process and policy changes, which will protect their exclusive data collection and selling activities and exclude third parties. A lot of rhetoric about privacy and personal control of data will be trafficked. But ultimately, it will be just sound and fury signifying nothing.
 
Data-driven, personalized marketing is the norm, the future and a genuine service to consumers. And while the Facebook scandal will raise consumer consciousness about who gathers what and where, the average person will still trade personal data for deals.
 

   

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About the Author
Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.
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