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Should You Be Concerned About Targeted Advertising In The Wake Of The Cambridge Analytica Case?

Should you be concerned about targeted advertising in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica case?

We have summarized the scandal surrounding the UK data analysis company, whose shameful methods allegedly helped Trump to his constituent victory in 2016. The case has contributed to the fact that a great deal of Facebook users are now worried that Facebook uses personal information against their will. What really happened? We at Emerse, are well aware of the subject. Here you will find answers to the question if we are using similar methods and what dark ads really are.

It’s not surprising that following disclosures in mid-March, people know about the data analysis company Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of personal data. Cambridge Analytica claims to be able to “change audience behaviour”  by combining retrieved data with behavioural science. The company has assisted in several election campaigns around the world and used a range of dubious  methods to influence voters. They collected, among other things, personal information on about 50 million Facebook users through an app with a personality test. The information was intended to help Donald Trump in the 2016 election by capturing profiles and spreading ads that showed his opponent Hillary Clinton in a bad light.

The scandal grew when it became apparent that Facebook knew about this information leak as early as 2015. They say that the app did not break their agreements at the time as it was understood to be for research purposes. They also state  that they did not know the information was passed on and called on Cambridge Analytica to remove the data but failed to follow this up. Neither did they cut ties with Cambridge Analytica until March 2018 after the data issue gained global attention. Investigations have begun and the operators found to be at fault risk large fines.

These denials are undoubtedly a tough battle for the world’s largest social platform. Many Facebook users worry about Facebook using personal data against their wishes. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg publicly apologized in an interview with CNN:

“This was a major breach of trust, and I’m really sorry that this happened. We have a basic responsibility to protect people’s data.” 

How does this affect you? Emerse explains:

Emerse worked with the Obama campaign 2012 (See article by the Nordic countries biggest business magazine Dagens Industri) and our CEO Carl-Johan Grund has also held seminars on the subject of the 2016 USA election and about Cambridge Analytica and the Trump campaign, so we are well versed on the subject.

In general, one should always be careful and aware when it comes to disclosing personal data. While companies are responsible for protecting the data they have access to, as illustrated by  Cambridge Analytica , everything indicates that there was  no such protection, says Shirin Ghanfili, Head of the Ad Operations team at Emerse.

Does Emerse use similar methods?

We do not use Cambridge Analytica’s services in any way, nor would we hire them for our  customers. Emerse does not purchase audience data of the kind used by Cambridge Analytica, for example, Facebook Quiz apps with the purpose of building a psychographic profile. In Sweden, it is forbidden to keep a register of people’s opinions. The target audience data we use at Emerse for Facebook  is built solely with the tools provided by Facebook for every advertiser. In other words, we have unique data, but   Facebook rules stipulate how data may be used. We do not use any other tools beyond these, confirms Shirin.

What are “dark posts” and “dark ads” actually?

It might sound dangerous, manipulative or even illegal. However in truth, dark ads are nothing more than ads  created on Facebook where the actual ad is not visible in the usual feed on your Facebook page. There is relevant information about the advertiser, but not the actual ad. Dark posts are the same, the difference is that entries are created in the Facebook Power Editor and this post is not published on its own website, but is promoted to different audiences. “Dark posts” are now called “unpublished mail”. In general, dark posts and dark ads are the same.  Of course both of these could be used incorrectly depending on how they are implemented!

We run both at Emerse in accordance with Facebook’s criteria and regulations, backed up by our own policies. This means that we never advertise ads that are not appropriate or relevant to the company, product or service in question. We only work with legitimate pages and ads that are relevant to those pages. Therefore, we always communicate with the customer’s name as a sender and never work with so-called “fake accounts”. We never buy follower or “likes” and do not use “bots”, which are computer programs that work relatively independently, so-called software robots.

Will Facebook change anything for users in the platform?

Yes, Facebook has recently announced a series of actions to recover consumer confidence following the Cambridge Analytica scandal and lessons learned. Here are some of them, described briefly:

  • Review all apps that had access to large amounts of user information before 2014 changes. If it is found that developers have violated the rules, they will be shut down and those affected will be informed.
  • Facebook will limit what data app developers can retrieve from users. An app should only have access to your name, profile picture, and email address. A signed contract will be required, not just a permit, to access third party information – for example, what you liked or posted.
  • Another change is that Facebook will automatically block apps that you have not used for three months from collecting data about you. Today, an app has access to data about you until you remove the permission manually, but this will soon change.
  • Zuckerberg also promises new features that will make it easier for users to see which apps have access to their data. Such a tool will appear at the top of the newsfeed in the future. Here it will be easy to remove any apps you no longer want to use, and everything will be collected under a single tab.
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