The recent legal trials, involving a certain looky-loo, have done nothing but show us that our data is as valuable as money itself. And businesses will pay top dollar for these uniquely human precious stones. 

Analytical tools for online research, such as Google Analytics, have become the right-hand man of modern companies. Google Analytics offers user information that ranges from how many are online in real-time to what technologies are used to reach the business’s website. The bonus to this is that the tools are open to the public, anyone with a website or accounts on other sites that link to Google Analytics can view their statistics in real-time. 

Nearly all social media websites today offer analytics if users choose to use them. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, all offer statistics with their own quirks and ways to read them if users switch to business accounts. Twitter, on the other hand, requires no effort to find (no switching profile modes), the Twitter Analytics section is directly under the “More” tab. And all individual Twitter posts have a small icon on the bottom with three vertical slashes, clicking this will give the stats on that post. 

In a small way, allowing all users to read their own stats, in addition to general likes, shares, and followers, gives them a data bank account full of numbers that can either go up or down. Which can often directly relate to a person’s self-image, self-confidence, and overall where their attention can lie.  

Currently, there are a large number of software businesses that sell protection from thieves that try to steal our data. But these thieves are looking for private financial information. While this secure data is compromised once put onto the internet, this is not the personal data that social media platforms sell to advertising researchers. 

In the light of the Facebook/ Mark Zuckerberg trials, it was found that user data was not “sold” in the traditional sense, but was given away to companies (like Amazon) that already spent large amounts on Facebook (FB) for advertising (Solon & Farivar, 2019). The data that was shared by Zuckerberg to his friends, non-competitive companies, included user “information about friends, relationships, and photos,” (Solon & Farivar, 2019). 

For the most part, it seems like businesses want to know the information that we (users) already know about ourselves. Even though FB going over its users’ heads like this could lead to secure financial data getting out, the majority of the data that is important has to do with our likes, dislikes, and general interests. 

In a small way, there is little to be seen as wrong when it comes to companies knowing their customers. Most often, people have an issue with how well they know their customers, but these companies are already trying to find this information through guesswork and logic. So, why shouldn’t we let businesses know exactly what they are looking for in a customer? 

Allowing people like Mark Zuckerberg to give our personal data bank out to his friends, leaves any company that is not friendly with Zuckerberg hanging high and dry. When people post onto FB, they are giving FB sensitive information that would be nearly impossible to find in research without plenty of longitudinal studies (Solon & Farivar, 2019). For this reason, it becomes understandable as to why Zuckerberg shared this data – it is vital customer data that could allow advertisers/ public relations (Ad/PR) strategists to fully understand how people behave. But unfortunately, Zuckerberg’s actions only aided companies that already have a powerful hold on their market share. 

For this reason, what Zuckerberg did was unethical in two ways: (1) FB does not outright ask users their permission for their data and (2) this data is extremely advantageous for businesses and was given to already highly profitable companies. If Zuckerberg had shared this data simply on the internet for anyone to find, permission or not, he would be helping everyone and not just the big guys. 

Customer behavior data is the gold, the grand jackpot, of user data: it shows what people do in their free time, how they spend their money, how they feel towards issues. This is the information that would allow Ad/PR departments to pinpoint a nearly exact customer profile. 

Demographics and researched behavioral data are frequently used to build customer profiles. In a way, FB still shares user data. When using FB Ads, it is possible to target specific profile demographics, such as age, gender, and location, and then FB’s algorithm shows potential results for the data chosen. 

Helpful how-to’s online, like Hootsuite’s articles “How to Advertise on Facebook in 2020: The Definitive Facebook Ads Guide” and “How to Use Facebook Custom Audiences: A Step-by-Step Guide,” offer essential information for businesses that have not been graced as being Mark Zuckerberg’s friend. It is likely that Amazon’s Ad/PR teams still have the FB information that was given to them, luckily this data will grow old with time. 

But for the rest of the business world, articles like the ones offered by Hootsuite give insight on how to navigate creating customer profiles with behavioral data and how to utilize FB’s demographic data. In addition to any user on popular social media platforms being able to view their own profile’s analytics for further research in Ad/PR strategies and tactics. 

Overall, what Zuckerberg did was wrong partially because he created an uneven playing field for other businesses by giving the advantage to his home team: his friends who pay FB large sums of money. Today, this playing field is leveled by a rise in awareness of data usage because of what the infamous FB trials brought to light. 


References:

Google Analytics. (2019). Retrieved on October 30, 2019, from https://analytics.google.com/analytics/web/#/ 

Newberry, C. (2019, October 17). How to Advertise on Facebook in 2020: The Definitive Facebook Ads Guide. Retrieved October 30, 2019, from https://blog.hootsuite.com/how-to-advertise-on-facebook/

Newberry, C. (2019, July 3). How to Use Facebook Custom Audiences: A Step-by-Step Guide. Retrieved October 30, 2019, from https://blog.hootsuite.com/how-to-use-facebook-custom-audiences/

Solon, O., & Farivar, C. (2019, April 18). Mark Zuckerberg leveraged Facebook user data to fight rivals and help friends, leaked documents show. Retrieved October 30, 2019, from https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/social-media/mark-zuckerberg-leveraged-facebook-user-data-fight-rivals-help-friends-n994706

Twitter Analytics. (2019). Retrieved on October 30, 2019, from https://analytics.twitter.com/about 

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Student in Philosophy and AD/PR