POSTED BY: Jennifer Murphy

Social Media Blog 8: Online Privacy

13th Apr, 2021
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Social Media Blog 8: Online Privacy

Apple’s iOS 14 update is going to disrupt the social media advertising model we know and love. Discussing privacy with your team or clients can be tricky, there’s a lot going on and many ways to interpret and understand. This week we’re going to discuss online data privacy and give you the insight and vocabulary needed to explore the topic of privacy in your business. Don’t worry, this isn’t a GDPR compliance document!

Using theory to understand online privacy

Privacy calculus theory suggests that individuals will always weigh the potential benefits against the potential risks when making a data disclosure decision. To put this in context, when creating a Facebook account, the platform will ask for your name, email address and date of birth. During this process you’ll ask yourself if the benefits offered by Facebook warrant the release of this information. If the answer to that question is yes then you create the account, release the data and enjoy the benefits of the platform.

What data does Facebook gather?

It’s helpful to consider Facebook and it’s associated platforms (Instagram, messenger, Whatsapp) as a human behaviour database. In addition to monitoring behaviour on its own apps – likes, follows, shares etc. – Facebook could, until now, track our activity across multiple apps on our devices. The default setting on Facebook was to opt in to that tracking.

Now however, Apple are challenging this default setting and want to ask users if they give permission to Facebook to track them across apps. Most advertisers and marketers are assuming that the majority of users will choose not to be tracked.

 Why does Facebook track activity across apps?

We often hear people answer that Facebook tracks our activity in order to serve us targeted advertising which some people perceive as intrusive. We rarely hear the answer from the point of view of businesses owners. Facebook sells advertising space on their platforms and businesses leverage this space to show their products/services to relevant audiences who find genuine value in what’s on offer. Small businesses who don’t have large enough advertising budgets for OOH, radio, print or TV can spend their money in a very efficient and cost effective way by reaching their target audience online. They only pay for the most relevant people to see their ads. Businesses have always targeted relevant audiences by selecting which publications, TV channels or streets to advertise on, now they can do this online with much more granularity and success.

What’s surveillance capitalism?

Despite the benefits to businesses, some people are heavily critical of the amount of personal data tech giants such as Facebook or Google are gathering on people.

You might have come across Shoshana Zuboff in Netflix’s The Social Dilemma in 2020. Zuboff is an author and scholar who sees the tracking and collecting of human data as a form of surveillance. She coined the term “surveillance capitalism” to describe a world in which the users of technology are neither customers, employees or products, but instead the raw material in a new economy. With data as a new form of capital, Zuboff argues that we need new regulation and legislation to navigate the data economy. She highlights the fact that data extraction has often occurred in the absence of consent and it seems that Apple might have taken this on board when designing their iOS 14 system.

As marketers we see the value in the data gathered by tech companies and these platforms have helped many businesses succeed in growing. Consumers are benefiting too, 28% of people discover new brands through social advertising and 42% of people use social media as a research channel ahead of making a purchase. Apple’s updates will still allow us to track up to 8 API conversions on our own websites so that we can continue to retarget web visitors to a certain degree but we will have delays in our conversion reporting and lose some insights into consumer behaviours. We can only hope that consumers will acknowledge the benefits of cross app tracking for themselves and for business and continue to grant Facebook this permission.