There has been a lot of talk over the last few weeks about Facebook, and their relationship with our data. Facebook announced that it was suspending Cambridge Analytica from the site, which stops the latter buying ads or accessing Facebook data. This appeared to be a pre-emptive response to stories which broke over the weekend in The Observer and The New York Times, of how Cambridge Analytica acquired data on 50 million Facebook users without their consent. The stories came from interviews with Christopher Wylie – a whistleblower intimately connected with Cambridge Analytica.
According to Facebook, this data was provided to Cambridge Analytica by a Cambridge University researcher called Aleksandr Kogan, who started a firm called Global Science Research (or GSR). GSR created a personality quiz on Facebook called “thisisyourdigitallife” which was labelled as a research experiment to be used by scientists to build psychological profiles.
Facebook’s developer policies allow data to be used in this way – what they don’t allow developers to do is to use it for other things, which is what Kogan is accused of doing. The data reportedly ended up in Cambridge Analytica’s hands to be used as part of its voter modelling.
In other words, 270,000 people who took what was marked as a fun, throwaway quiz were actually providing detailed information to be used by political campaigns to try and manipulate their voting intentions in the future.
As you can imagine this has put the spotlight firmly on the likes of Facebook and their relationship with our data. I’m not 100% sure if that’s fair as we all know what we’re signing up for with Facebook and we have all just clicked yes without checking out who actually has access to the data we supply, or often how much data we actually supply.
I think the important lesson is about us being careful what we sign up for, Facebook supply us their platform for free but in return they utilise the data we let them and it has always been that way.
As marketers it can be difficult as our gut reaction is to get the maximum amount of data of those we wish to market to. We need to make sure part of our own ethical ideals is to be aware of where the information we’re using comes from and how it has been gathered. I believe part of our ethical marketing journey involves greater transparency on how our data is gathered and how we choose to gather that information, we must make sure people 100% know and understand what they’re signing up to.
Transparency in how we get our marketing information must be evident and we need to take the first step in insuring this by not utlisiing data which may have been harvested without he owners consent. Moving forward try to see where your data has come from and make sure the origin is ethical.