"Cambridge Analytica Fallout Continues as Facebook Scrambles to Make Changes"

With voice and chat platforms becoming the new apps, it’s fair to say that the personality of this platform will play a tremendous role in defining the voice of your brand. Rob Lamberson discussed how data and other learnings are used to create and refine chat bot personalities through three case studies.

Since news of Cambridge Analytica's improper use of Facebook user data came to light a few weeks ago, the platform has been hurrying to strengthen its data controls and perform damage control. The fallout reached a fever pitch this week as CEO Mark Zuckerberg provided testimony to several Congressional bodies.

While expressing contrition for the lapse in management and control, his testimony across both Senate and House committees stressed a few key elements that impact digital advertising directly:

  • Defense of a free, ad-supported services model online, one that leverages data collected about users.
  • Clearer user protections for opt-in/opt-out terms and conditions.
  • Possible future regulations, similar to European GDPR restrictions, as the internet and wider services provided by Facebook and others become more important to individuals.
  • Better data protection security and control by Facebook and others who collect a significant amount of personal data and who have shared it in the past with partners.

In the run-up to Zuckerberg's appearance this week, Facebook has been rapidly distributing updates to their broader services and ad capabilities. They are even enlisting their users' help to police the platform with yesterday's announcement of a Data Abuse Bounty. Below is a summary of key changes that are having the biggest impact on advertisers:

  • Reach Estimates for Custom Audiences: Removal of the capability to evaluate and run reach estimates against custom audiences for initial planning purposes.
    - Impact to clients: For clients leveraging first-party custom audiences within Facebook, we now have limited visibility into those audiences for initial set-up and planning purposes. However, there is no change in our ability to create or buy against those audiences.
  • Removal of Partner Audiences: Removal, within the next six months, of third-party partner audiences for targeting within the platform.
    - Impact to clients: Most clients leverage partner audiences, currently, and will need to shift to testing alternatives leveraging traditional Facebook interest targeting or custom audiences. Audits and targeting options should be underway across affected accounts.
  • Tighter Restrictions for APIs to Obtain Audience Insights/Behaviors: Adjustment to API-level access for social monitoring/listening tools, or for competitive insights, which will negatively impact current tools for Facebook monitoring.
    - Impact to clients: For clients or agency teams leveraging social insights or listening capabilities (e.g., CubeYou), we expect further Facebook audits to continue to impact visibility and analysis. IPG Mediabrands teams will continue to evaluate and review changes and recommend options as updates remain fluid.
  • Ongoing Data Audit Across All Apps/Partners: New submissions of advertiser-owned apps and chat bots are paused in a review state, due to ongoing Facebook audit of data access and usage of all existing apps and partners.
    - Impact to clients: For new apps or chat bots being launched by clients, expect delays and possible adjustments to be requested.

It is important to note that most client social media teams will also be experiencing significant challenges in managing or maintaining insights on Facebook users beyond what is typically provided by paid Facebook activity or insights. For sophisticated social programs, this can be especially frustrating, as reliance on post-based insights, social listening, or competitor insights is often essential to day-to-day social media activity. As a result, social media teams will likely have to rely more heavily on paid media teams for broader insights and answers.

Bottom Line

It's clear that Facebook is facing significant concerns about their fundamental approach to users as well as to their underlying advertiser-funded business model. While they are making significant changes to improve user privacy controls and limit access to existing user data, these changes do have a direct negative impact on existing advertising capabilities and on our access to data from approved Facebook partners.

As of now, there don't seem to be any overt signals that users are fleeing the platform. According to Ogury data, ownership of the app has remained steady over the past two months, and the percentage of active users has remained unchanged as well.