The news has been buzzing lately about the big Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal, which has Facebook users scrambling to see if their data has been compromised, and what companies have access to it.
In a situation like this, it’s important to know exactly what happened, and what (if anything) your company should do to respond. Let’s go over everything you need to know.
Here’s The Big Deal
Here’s what happened: Cambridge Analytica was a data services company targeting political customers by promising to leverage data to reach voters more effectively – especially Facebook data. There are a whole lot of adjacent issues regarding Cambridge Analytica’s past behavior, but the big problem here is that the company essentially stole data from at least 50 million Facebook users, with the goal of manipulating them.
The agency stole this data with some complicated use of apps that were designed to “scrape” personal user data from profiles on Facebook and deliver it to Cambridge Analytica, without any particular authorization. You may recognize this as exactly the sort of thing that Facebook should be preventing on behalf of users, which is why Facebook users are feeling a little panic and Facebook leaders are answering a lot of very pointed questions right now.
How The Fiasco Affects Businesses on Facebook
Fortunately, the average business page on Facebook appears largely unaffected, at least so far. While Facebook security and data collection practices may change, the basic brand is unlikely to face any direct restrictions as a result of this mess.
Indirect restrictions, however, are still a possibility. That means that ad agencies might see limitations on how they can place ads, and access to customer data may become more difficult to come by via social media…which could require some replanning.
What Your Business Should Do
Let’s break it down into three different parts:
Talk to people about how you use data.
Transparency is incredibly important to your customers, and it’s important when they’re still progressing down the sales funnel. That means you need to take time to explain how the data that people are giving you is going to be used, stored, and protected. And (as is becoming a requirement throughout many industries) it’s a good idea to remind customers they can request that you remove their data from your records at any time. Remember, a big incident like this damages consumer trust even if your particularly business has a flawless track record on data, so it’s important to be away of general feelings.
Brush up on your data best practices.
Frankly, it’s a good idea to regularly review your data practices every several months, as technology moves so fast and hackers are always looking for new vulnerabilities. But this whole scandal is the perfect opportunity to convince a boss or team that now is the perfect time to revamp your data security. We suggest you look at both current best practices in your industry (along with any applicable laws) and future considerations (such as eventually adopting WPA3 for Wi-Fi, and other long-term developers).
Market your content, first and foremost.
The good news for businesses is that the most effective marketing techniques – making human connections with people, providing real value in your content, etc. – can’t really be affected by how social media data is managed. Focus on the basics!
Here is where things get really uncertain. Zuckerberg has testified before Congress, lots of people are talking about what steps to take next, and no one is sure how it will pan out. There could be new federal legislation regarding how Facebook and similar social sites deal with data, possibly restricting it.
Even if this doesn’t happen, local and state governments may also be looking into new laws on data use – the ripple effect could go on for some time. Facebook itself has already made it easier for users to control their data security, and no doubt more changes are on the way.
The good news for smaller B2B companies worried about all this is that most changes are likely to be internal, and will not change too much about the average business page and how it functions. Facebook ads are less clear, and could be up for more drastic changes, depending on how Facebook was fueling their ad targeting. We will keep you updated on any important details here.