The Facebook Sh*tstorm Explained


Last week Mark Zuckerberg walked into a UK court dressed in his usual zip-down hoodie and grey shirt. He was facing accusations that Facebook was aware of the illegal mining of over 50 million Facebook users data.

This isn’t exactly world-stopping news, Facebook has been earning itself a bit of a bad boy reputation lately. First, there was the charge pressed by the Belgium Privacy Watchdog, then there was revenge porn page they failed to shut-down and how could you forget the huge fiasco that is the Russia enquiry…and we are only 3 months into 2018!

Mark Zuckerberg is fending off lawsuits like some kind of nerdy-ninja. I guess when you’ve got a net worth of 69.96 billion and you are the head of a company that only last year was valued at over 500 billion, people think you’re a human piñata. ‘If we hit him hard enough perhaps some money will fall out!’ …or perhaps, in a scenario that’s not good news for poor (in morale not money obvs) Zuckerberg, Facebook has a problem and a BIG ONE at that.

Mark Zuckerberg

Facebooks BIG BIG Problem

Let’s make one thing clear. I don’t think Zuckerberg is plotting evil in his villain’s lair at Facebook HQ. I think Facebook has just grown too big for its boots and as much as he refuses to admit it, Zuckerberg can’t reign it in.

When you have over 2.13 billion active monthly users, 65 million business pages and 4 million active advertisers the data that you hold becomes remarkably valuable. You only need to take one look at the insights that Facebook IQ offers to know that this company is the master of collecting, segmenting and organising consumer data.

On top of the data they are able to collect from Facebook users they also draw on large amounts of third-party data that gives users the ability to target based on things like household income and number of offspring. Their problem is their failure to protect this data. In the words of Zuckerberg ‘We have a responsibility to protect your information. If we can’t, we don’t deserve it’…and that’s the point Facebook has to prove! Can they protect our data? And more importantly, WILL they protect our data if it means they will lose out financially?

Note: After this whole fiasco Facebook has announced they will begin to phase out third-party data. This is also partly due to the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) that come in the play across the EU in May. I think we can expect Australia will eventually follow suit! Read more about this timeline for regulation roll-out here + i’ll have a blog out outlining everything you need to know about the new GDPR regualtions ASAP!

The Facebook Sh*tstorm Explained

In 2014 a researcher named Aleksandr Kogan (not Ruslan Kogan, he’s a good guy) developed a personality-quiz app for Facebook. 270,000 users installed Kogan’s Facebook app that was able to access both the data of the user and their friends and sell it to a company called Cambridge Analytica. In short, Cambridge Analytica is a data mining company headed by a few bond-villain-looking men. Basically, they buy data from various sources and use it to create advanced ‘psychographic’ voter profiles that are used in political elections campaigns and other major marketing efforts.

Mark Zuckerberg

Hyper-targeting isn’t illegal, that’s been a marketing power move for years! You can check out our blog on Facebook Hyper Targetting here. The illegal part is their failure to disclose how the data was obtained and the deceitful manner in which it was being used. Experts believe Cambridge Analytica used data to gain an unfair advantage for the Brexit “Leave” campaign, the 2016 presidential campaign of Ted Cruz, and the 2016 Trump campaign.

Channel 4 News ran a large scale undercover exposé that captured footage of Cambridge Analytica’s big guys bragging about swaying elections and planting political propaganda that, in their words “doesn’t necessarily have to be true, just believable”.  The footage was released depicting a whole lot of bribery and breaking of both UK and US law and the rest was history…well not quite yet.

In a matter of hours, #deleteFacebook was trending on Twitter, started by WhatsApp founder Jan Koum who funnily enough sold his company to Facebook in 2014. It’s a serious sh*tstorm (for lack of a better word) and to make matters worse Mark Zuckerberg has been asked to testify but has decided he is too busy and has opted to send a colleague instead.


Why Does this Matter?

Our ability to collect and collate enormous amounts of data has fueled a great deal of modern innovation including artificial intelligence and deep learning. More so than ever before we are able to create snapshots of large audiences and easily share and collaborate our data projects.

Big data is a lucrative business and when something becomes lucrative there’s always going be people filling their pockets at the expense of someone else…hint, that someone else is Facebook users, AKA you! Since the early days experts have warned of the perils of what they call ‘data extractavism’ and the monetising of big data, and this whole Facebook/Cambridge Analystica fiasco really adds weight to these concerns.

Your data is used to target you with advertising in all forms, email, remarketing ads on Google and even the dreaded cold call and this wouldn’t be a problem…if the use of the data in your best interest. The millions of people who unknowingly passed their data onto Cambridge Analytica thought they were completing an innocent personality quiz, not arming government agencies with the advanced data profiles needed to win elections. Undoubtedly it is Facebook users who are losing out in this situation but I also want to talk about a more pressing issue…

Let’s forget about the Facebook shareholders, employees and that friend who relies on Facebook to tirelessly inform you of their day-to-day life problems for a second…if Facebook goes under YOU are who we are really worried about!

Since it’s humble beginnings in 2004 many businesses have built large followings on the platform and rely heavily on Facebook as an avenue for advertising and sharing content with their audience. I mean, I probably have over 100 blogs on Facebook marketing alone. If audiences start leaving Facebook faster than school children at bell time there’s not much these retailers can do to safeguard all of their hard work.

Facebook has long swept the question of who is regulating data use under the carpet and for the most part, users aren’t aware of how much data is collected from them. Even with tougher data regulations, Facebook will continue to benefit advertisers, but we do believe strongly in retailers having a backup plan.

That’s why I wrote a Part 2 for this blog: How to Save Your Brands Arse if Everyone Starts Deleting Facebook. So if you are looking for some strategies to help you build your metaphorical storm bunker I urge you to check it out!

If you follow along on our blog I’m going to sound like a broken record, SORRY! But for the newbies, Alita is hosting her Email Marketing Masterclass at this year’s Retail Global and you won’t want to miss out!

Register for our Email Marketing Masterclass at Retail Global 2018! 

In our workshop you will learn to do the following: 

  • Identify the gaps and opportunities in your existing email marketing strategy
  • Integrate email campaigns into other channels including social media, messenger, ads & search
  • Understand how to boost your open, click, conversion and revenue rates from your emails

Anf for those who can’t make it to the Gold Coast?…Alita will be live to answer all of your burning questions about content marketing and personalisation in her webinar on Thursday 26th. Click here to for more details and to register, it’s FREE! 

Have you ever wondered what Alita really think when she reads her emails?

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