A Closer Look Into The Facebook Controversy

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica / Facebook controversy additional attention is being focused on how our personal information is shared and often sold across platforms. First thing first... This isn't anything new, just the specifics of this circumstance and it's as old as the original cookies collected by browsers like Netscape and Internet Service providers like AOL. In fact, to this day, AOL is involved in the practice of "data brokering" - the collecting and sharing/selling user information (and Netscape likely would be too if it still existed). Truth is you agree to allow this to happen, you've just likely never read the user agreements for the online services you use.  

The first thing to know is that virtually every service you use, but don't directly pay to use, engages in data brokering. In fact, even some you do pay to use (like Amazon) will sell your info as well. Facebook and Google are the world's largest data brokers but other prominent names like Microsoft and Yahoo are in the mix as are other social networks like Twitter. So, what's the most common information collected and sold by data brokers? It's actually pretty common stuff that in context can be valuable for marketing directly to you. Here's the rundown: 

  • Name, Age, and Gender 

  • Addresses 

  • Phone number 

  • Email addresses 

  • Marital status  

  • Ages of any children 

  • Property ownership 

  • Political preferences 

  • Income  

  • Education information 

Look at how many of those boxes are checked by Facebook in particular and you can see why they're a gold mine for those seeking information for marketing purposes. Virtually all of that information can be obtained and pieced together through readily available information online but for major marketers they're looking for a one-stop shop for maximum information. If you use Facebook, Google and shop on Amazon think about how much of your life is represented and known.  

Now here's the thing. You've literally asked for it. And it's not always a bad thing. For example, many have previously indicated they'd rather have marketing targeted to them that's less random. So, part of the reason it's been tolerated to the extent it has is that often it produces a potentially more desired result for you. It's understandable to have concerns about how our info is collected and used but we're ultimately responsible for it being provided and used. It starts with those user agreements we never read.

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