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McLellan: Facebook changes are coming


You’d have to have been in a coma or living on a deserted island to not know that Facebook has been in the news lately. There’s been a lot of talk about a potential large-scale data breach of personally identifiable information, sometimes referred to as PII, in relation to the 2016 presidential election. It’s believed that the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica and their subcontractors captured the data of up to 87 million Facebook users (most of them in the United States) and used that data to segment and target users to influence them on behalf of their clients.

There’s still a lot we don’t know in terms of the details of the breach, but Facebook has already begun to make changes based on the incident. Facebook officials have acknowledged the situation and have begun to take measures to shore up security protocols and to reassure the public that the situation is being investigated and protectionary measures are being put into place so that this doesn’t happen again.

Some of the actions that have already taken place include deleting over 250 pages operated by a Russian organization allegedly involved with the breach and implemented the use of artificial intelligence tools to identify and remove fake accounts in general.  They’ve also promised to increase their security and content review staff headcount about 25 percent overall.

Most of the measures taken to date are about protecting the users’ data and doing a better job of making sure that all accounts are tied to a real human being. But they also announced some changes that will impact organizations who advertise on the social media channel.

No doubt there will be more changes coming, but here’s what we know is going to happen for sure.

Two primary changes known thus far are:

Partner categories: Effective July 1, advertisers will not be able to create a new or edit an existing campaign using partner categories. If you’re not familiar with partner categories, advertisers were able to purchase data from third-party providers that were able to compile a targeted list based on a wide variety of factors like demographics, purchase history and where someone works.

Anyone who already has a campaign up and running that used these third-party providers to create the list will have that portion of their list removed Oct. 1.

Custom audiences: Like the partner categories, this change is about how people create lists of Facebook users to advertise to. With custom audiences a company can upload client email lists for targeting. Within the next 90 days or so, Facebook will add a permissions element. The company or their agency will have to certify that the user data being used was obtained with consent.

There’s another advertising change that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg alluded to in a Facebook post. It hasn’t been defined or officially announced so this may change, but based on his post, Zuckerberg intends to require more transparency from anyone placing ads that are issues-based. These advertisers will have to identify themselves and their location before the ads will be approved. How all of that would be policed and monitored hasn’t been disclosed yet.

The truth is — this is the risk we take anytime we tie our work to a media channel. They own it and they can change the rules. But they have a reach and connection to our target audience that would take us years to develop. Most advertisers are willing to take the risk because the rewards are worth it to them.

There’s been a lot of “abandon Facebook” talk but for the most part, they aren’t losing a significant number of users or advertisers so far. Their value outweighs the concerns. Time will tell if that changes down the road.

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