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What The Facebook Data Scandal Means For Content Marketers

Data scandals have traditionally been associated with cybercriminals working in the shadows to steal personally identifiable information and sell it on the internet’s black market.

But companies we would normally trust with our data have recently made the headlines, painting an altogether more alarming picture.

Facebook, the world’s biggest social network, faced public and legal scrutiny following a data scandal surrounding their involvement with data firm Cambridge Analytica.

Meanwhile, new data regulations like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are bringing widespread changes to how companies process and hold data.

While legal stipulations are giving individuals more control over their personal information, events like the Facebook data-sharing scandal are changing fundamental perceptions of how companies use the data they hold about us.

But what does this mean for content marketers, who use personal information to bring personalised, relevant content to current customers and potential prospects?


Decoding the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal

It was revealed that political consultancy Cambridge Analytica misused the personally identifiable information of up to 87 million Facebook users.

They sold information to various political organisations to influence public opinion during the Brexit referendum and U.S. presidential election campaign in 2016.

The company has since filed for bankruptcy in America after negative media coverage has driven away customers. But Facebook is not without blame.

In 2013, Cambridge Analytica created a psychological quiz named ‘This Is Your Digital Life’ which harvested the data of around 300,000 quiz participants.

Facebook’s data privacy settings surrounding third-party apps allowed the consultancy to gather information from the friends and connections of quiz participants, resulting in access to millions of users’ data (you can check whether you were affected here).

Facebook restricted developer access to user data in 2014, but did not impose the changes retroactively. Three years later, and the public eye has been opened to Facebook’s lack of commitment to data privacy.

Think of how many applications and websites you sign in to via Facebook. Users may have unknowingly shared anything from their age, gender, personal interests or even browsing history with external companies.

In his testimony to U.S. Congress, Zuckerberg insisted Facebook users’ information is used solely to provide more targeted ads. But the seeds of doubt are already sown. It’s a fact that Facebook has failed to keep data privacy as high a priority as it should have.

What does it mean for content marketers?

Admittedly a company like Facebook, with its near 2.2 billion monthly active users, can shrug off the reputational damage that proved enough to bankrupt Cambridge Analytica.

But the questions raised regarding what companies do with individuals’ personal data will be harder to sweep under the rug. As data regulations change, it will be up to content marketers to set the record straight with customers and their data.

Content marketing is, now more than ever, as much about trust as it is about personalisation. Perhaps above all else, customers and clients want to be able to trust the company they deal with.

The GDPR & the importance of your next email newsletter

The GDPR, then, is arriving at an opportune time. The regulation is changing how companies process and handle the personal data of customers, clients and employees, giving more power to the individual.

A recent article from the Guardian revealed that, contrary to popular belief, “Recital 171 of the GDPR states that you can continue to rely on any existing consent that was given in line with GDPR requirements.

So providing your initial consent met the GDPR standard and is properly documented, there’s no need to ask your email lists to re-confirm their subscription.

But with data privacy scandals like Facebook-Cambridge Analytica fresh in their minds, retaining consent will require a high level of transparency. We suggest telling your email lists exactly what data you hold on them, and that they can (by law) request that information whenever they wish.

But go further and tell them why you want to keep their personal information and what you plan to use it for.

To reinforce you’re putting the privacy of the customer first, your request for consent should include:

• Why you’re emailing them

The GDPR is coming into effect on May 25th, giving you more control and visibility over your personal data.

• Why you want to keep their personal information

We want to keep you updated with the latest news regarding X; we want to keep providing you with insight and advice around Y.

• Their right to request the information you have on them at any time

If you want to know the information we currently have around you or your company, drop us an email and we’ll let you know!”

• Their right to have their information deleted

If you want us to delete the information we have regarding you and/or your company, let us know and we’ll remove it from our database.

As our lives continue to become inextricably linked to the internet, the value of personally identifiable information will only rise (whether obtained legally or illegally).

Content marketers should remember that, in the age of data breaches and now data scandals, transparency is crucial in keeping the trust of your customers.

Fifty Five and Five can help you create engaging email campaigns, but we’re also a marketing agency you can trust! Find out more about us!

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