Stop picking on Facebook everyone sells your data

Stop picking on Facebook everyone sells your data

Our Facebook data is being sold? No? Say it ain’t so…

Congratulations – it took a while but it seems like people have finally woken up to the fact that our data is being sold, by not ONLY the Dark Web Hoodie Wearing Hackers, but by large, international, blue chip, Fortune 500 firms.

This is not yet another Cambridge Analytica Facebook data rant story. There are hundreds of those out there about what happened, who said what to who, what Mark Zuckerberg should and should not do [read this from New York Times). This story is about the comical people who think that by deleting Facebook (#DeleteFacebook campaign) that their info is no longer up for grabs.

Let me be the first to say: Bullshit- that is not how this works.

It’s that kind of thinking which is why we are in this weirdly- awakening moment in the first place. Removing an app does not remove your data. Deleting it does not magically mean you can no longer be profiled or instantly become invisible. It does not remove your digital footprint.

Allow me take you behind the marketing-curtain and reveal how the web really works from a marketers point of view:

Flights to Hawaii Search

Have you ever searched for something out of your norm like “Flights to Hawaii” and then each site you visit amazingly has Hawaii vacation deals, Hawaii hotels, Hawaii car rentals.

What a coincidence! Right?

Have you ever added something to your shopping cart only to see an ad for the exact same item with a discount?

Wow – another coincidence!


These are all marketing techniques known as remarketing or retargeting that allow an advertiser to target you with personalized ads.

Let me explain:

Smart marketers add a bit of code to websites that gather information about each person that visits the site WITHOUT you having to enter your personal information (name, email, phone number). While the info is anonymous your info is being added to a list known as an “audience”.  When the business owner wants to embark on an advertising campaign, he/she is able to aim that advert directly at the audience that has visited the website – ie. YOU.

The data gathered is so accurate it “knows” which web page you were accessing, what search you ran and it knows every item you added to your cart even if, or especially if, you didn’t check out and buy it.

Marketers are able to analyze data looking for indicators that you might be ready to buy. For example: if you spend a couple of seconds on the site, you were probably just browsing. However, if you spent 1 min on the product page and watch 80% of the product video and read about related products, odds are that you are ready to buy.

Remember this happens on most websites without you entering any information.

Personalized gets an action

The days of “Spray and Pray” are over where marketers advertised in the HOPE that the ad reaches the right person. Today’s marketing is about pin point accuracy and personalization.

Having a very personalized ad is more likely to get a “conversion” ie. an action. You are more likely to read an email addressed to you verses an email addressed to “Dear Sir/ Madam”. Same with ads. You are more likely to take an action if the ad is personalized to your latest behavior.

If you added a new pair of shoes to your shopping cart but at the last moment decided not to check-out, marketers know this and smart marketers sends you a digital advert with a coupon for those exact shoes hoping to persuade you to buy the shoes – so not a coincidence at all.

No Website No Problem

What if you don’t have a website or you haven’t hired a smart marketer (*like me – shameless plug). You can still send targeted ads to your “ideal customer”.  How?  The social networks, provide tools to build audiences, based on many many many many data factors, such as interests and behaviors.

The social networks don’t have to hack your personal life to steal this info. There is not need to listen through your phone to your conversations to serve you ads. You are giving up that information every time you click, like, search, visit a website, buy anything, use a store rewards programs, or book a vacation by signing into your favorite travel-portal.

You Data Sends Signals

It’s all about connecting the dots to form an educated guess.

If you see a friend who has a new book “What to Expect When You Are Expecting” laying on their kitchen counter, and you notice they started buying Parenting magazine during their monthly shop, and they started talking about the new baby products on the market and ask questions about pediatricians, then there is a good chance that they are expecting a child. You aren’t 100% certain, but the dots line up.

Same things happen with our buying, clicking, liking, commenting, watching videos, savings posts, and joining groups. We are sending the same signals to the platform so that  a company selling baby-stuff is able to create an advert and target it at those people who match the “possibly pregnancy profile” which it gets more right more oftem than wrong.

Here is where it gets even better and has marketers salivating.

Should anyone click on the ad to land on the company’s website, then they are known as a “warm lead” –  they shown interest. Now an even more detailed and personalized ad is shown to that person. If that same person clicked onto the product and added it to their shopping cart but didn’t buy, then another ad is shown to them with a “Flash Sale” on that exact same item.

 If it’s free YOU are the product

We have been told for years that Data Scientists, Data Mining, and Data Analyzers have key positions in every organization. This is what they do. They gather this data and build profiles and create models.

If you ever read any terms and conditions which, let’s be honest, 99% of us don’t, then you would have noticed that you agree to give this information. If you use Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or Google to sign into apps, watch the permission that the app requests and don’t just accept the default permission. In most cases you can edit that permission and untick those that the system doesn’t need access to. There is no need for a Chess Game to access your phone calls. So don’t allow it to.

A little while ago there was an outrage as a website “exposed” how Google tracks your location. Yes it does. But only because you told it that it can.  So before we cry foul, we are willingly giving this information in the rush to get that new app or to get that “free gift” or those discount coupons.

So in summary

Is only Facebook guilty of using your data to sell more ads? Nope.

EVERYONE does this. Anywhere where an advertiser can log on and build an audience this includes LinkedIn, Google, Twitter, Pinterest etc.

Do you know of any business that deletes records of customer purchases? Nope. They use that info for stock predictions, sales cycles, pricing models and to entice you back into their business to sell you more stuff. The moment you buy more stuff, they work out what other stuff pairs nicely with the stuff you already bought so you can buy more stuff. Rinse and Repeat.

So yes, Elon Musk deleted Tesla’s and SpaceX’s Facebook pages.  “At first we thought the Instagram-obsessed billionaire was joking or, as someone would say, trolling” Kerry Flynn reports in her article. But Elon was serious and someone hit the delete button. I predict that he will be in the minority on this one.

My guess is that more people uninstalled Uber back in January 2017 during that #DeleteUber controversy, then people will uninstall Facebook. There is a replacement for Uber such as Lyft, but there is no real replacement for Facebook that has the same world wide scale and spans the age groups (Grandpa just learnt Facebook, he isn’t going to start snapchatting you anytime soon).

While some brands will certainly threaten to stop using Facebook to advertise, most will not – they make way too much revenue by targeting us with ads. In fact, some will even increase their advertising spend now that they know how powerful it can be.

Should a company share your info with other companies that you didn’t agree to? No – but some do.

Should a company trick you into giving up your info in exchange for some app? No – but some do.

Should a company use your own buying history to sale you something at a more expensive price because they know your buying habits and you can afford it? No – but some do.

You would need to remove yourself from society and anything digital to not have your data sold and most people are not willing to do that.

So pick on Facebook for other reasons such as political and Fake news, but Facebook is not alone in this game. The entire web is vulnerable, and therefore deleting Facebook is not going to stop your data being traded.

Further Reading:

Liron Segev - TheTechieGuy

Liron Segev is an award-winning tech blogger, YouTube strategist, and Podcaster. He helps brands tell their stories in an engaging way that non-techies can relate to. He also drinks way too much coffee! @Liron_Segev on Twitter