Monthly Archives: January 2019
Citizens Reserve, a Bay Area startup, has a broad goal of digitizing the supply chain. Last fall, the company launched the Alpha version of Suku, a Supply Chain as a Service platform built on the blockchain. Today, it announced a partnership with Smartrac, an RFID tag manufacturer, based in Amsterdam, as a key identity piece for the platform.
Companies use RFID to track products from field or factory to market. Eric Piscini, CEO at Citizens says this partnership helps solve a crucial piece of digitizing the supply chain. It provides a way to trace products on their journey to market, and ensure their provenance, whether that is to be sure no labor was exploited in production, environmental standards were maintained or that the products were stored under the proper conditions to ensure freshness.
One of the big issues in track and trace on the supply chain is simply identifying the universe of items in motion across the world at any given moment. RFID tagging provides a way to give each of these items a digital identity, which can be placed on the blockchain to help prevent fraud. Once you have an irrefutable digital identity, it solves a big problem around digitizing the supply chain.
He said this is all part of a broader effort to move the supply chain to the digital realm by building a platform on the blockchain. This not only provides an irrefutable, traceable digital record, it can have all kinds of additional benefits like reducing theft and fraud and ensuring provenance.
There are so many parties involved in this process from farmers and manufacturers to customs authorities to shipping and container companies to logistics companies moving the products to market to the stores that sell the goods. Getting all of the various parties involved in the supply chain to move to a blockchain solution remains a huge challenge.
Today’s partnership offers one way to help build an identity mechanism for the Citizens Reserve solution. The company is also working on other partnerships to help solve other problems like warehouse management and logistics.
The company currently has 11 employees based in Los Gatos, California. It has raised $ 11 million, according to Piscini.
Available ad impressions on social media are hitting a wall as user growth slows, driving up CPC and CPM prices. As demand increases, it becomes even more important for advertisers to properly optimize campaigns to maximize their return on investment for paid social.
According to Merkle’s Q2 2018 Digital Marketing Report, advertiser spend increased 40% year-over-year in Q2, while impressions fell 17%.
The influx of advertising dollars to social media platforms with a steady number of available impressions means that the average cost-per-click (CPC) is rising.
Many paid social media campaigns do not maximize their return on investment because of poor or incomplete optimization, limited distribution, incomplete tracking, and undefined goals.
Here’s what you need to do to squeeze more out of your paid social media campaigns.
Advertising for the funnel
Each advertisement you run must have a clear goal in mind, and that goal must fit into a larger piece of your paid social media strategy. Moving prospects from the top of the funnel to the bottom—as efficiently as possible—is necessary for a successful ad campaign.
Keep in mind that it may take multiple interactions with your advertisements and content before someone works their way through the funnel. Your ad campaigns should never take on a one-and-done approach.
An ad targeting a past purchaser will be very different than an ad targeting someone who is completely unfamiliar with your brand and products.
This makes it important to segment your customers into the correct phase of the buying process. Run different ads with different messages and calls to action for each segment.
Advertise smarter, not harder.
Simple process improvements
A number of small improvements can greatly impact the success of a paid social media campaign. Not implementing these is basically leaving money on the table. Remember, we are trying to squeeze every last drop of ROI out of these campaigns, even if getting the maximum return takes time.
While the examples I cite relate to Facebook and Instagram, we can see equivalents on Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Snapchat to some degree.
Whichever social media platform you are advertising through, follow platform best practices and make sure everything is set up properly—through tracking pixels and UTM codes. Everything should be properly attributed across platforms.
First, make sure that Facebook’s tracking pixel is properly implemented on your website.
Facebook Pixel Helper, a free Chrome browser extension from Facebook, can help you troubleshoot any issues. You can find information on how to set up Facebook Pixel from scratch on Facebook’s website.
You also need to set up Facebook Pixel with standard events like newsletter sign-ups and successful e-commerce actions (add to cart, purchase, etc.) to help with creating higher quality custom and lookalike audiences.
Facebook and Instagram have powerful tracking and conversion optimization abilities in their ad technology, so use them.
Using Facebook’s custom audiences feature is a must if you want your paid social media campaigns to really perform.
It is foolish to not capture and harness information about your website’s visitors, especially when it is free and requires only minutes to set up. Facebook offers a number of ways to create a custom audience in the Facebook Ads Manager.
If your Facebook Pixel is properly set up, it can record every action taken by visitors on your website in the past 180 days. The actions include page views, button clicks, abandoned carts, and purchases.
You can create audiences to build lookalike audiences or use them for remarketing.
Advertising to someone who has already been to your website and possibly even completed on-site actions has a much higher chance of converting than advertising to a first-time visitor.
With proper implementation, you can track offline events, like sales at physical retail locations, after someone has interacted with your Facebook advertisements.
There are two ways to set up offline activity: either upload the offline data CSV file manually to Facebook or sync your CRM directly with Facebook. The customer information will then be matched to the correct user IDs on Facebook.
This approach will show you if someone took a specific action, like purchasing after viewing.
You can create lookalike audiences in the Facebook Ads Manager to find audiences that have similar traits and characteristics to your ideal user.
The lookalike audience is created based on a custom audience, which acts as a seed audience. This allows you to greatly expand the number of potential customers you can target based on a higher-quality custom audience.
Conversions are of paramount importance for e-commerce stores. Website traffic is useless unless it results in sales. Luckily, Facebook and Instagram can help optimize your campaign’s delivery for successful conversions.
Conversion tracking depends on the proper implementation of the tracking pixel and properly set up ad campaigns. You also need to set up standard events or custom conversions on Facebook to accurately measure and optimize for conversions. Google Analytics offers conversion tracking as well, but it’s based on a last-click-attribution model.
There is no reason not to track and optimize for conversions. Even media companies that generate revenue by on-site ad units can benefit from optimizing toward conversions by focusing on pages-per-session to find a higher quality user, opposed to general website visitors.
Remarketing with social media ad managers requires proper implementation of each platforms’ tracking pixels.
For example, Facebook’s audience and lookalike audience features are powerful tools that can track users and specific website actions up to 180 days in the past.
Remarketing with these audiences in mind is a strategic approach, and entire campaigns can be built around them. In fact, these types of campaigns often yield the highest returns.
Sequential advertising is when you show different ads to the same person over a period of time. Large television campaigns sometimes use this tactic, but there is no reason why it cannot be successfully applied to paid social media campaigns.
For example, you may show an audience an ad focusing on one benefit of your product. The next ad, after the majority of people in the audience has seen the first one, would highlight another benefit of the product. The third ad would highlight a customer testimonial. You are showing your audience the same product but with different messaging.
If you are running video ads, you could also share a related story via that format. Think the Budweiser Frogs television campaign or some of BMW’s mini-movies. A sequential advertising campaign does not have to go to such lengths to be successful, but fresh, on-brand, eye-catching creative in any form is generally a good thing.
Besides improvements to the advertising process, further optimization to paid social campaigns can be achieved through maximizing the campaigns’ distribution. That will ensure your campaign is successful based on your set goals. Not maximizing the distribution of your ads will leave money on the table.
Regularly refresh your creative
Using the same creative—images, video, and text—over and over can quickly cause fatigue. This means your audience will start to ignore your ads—or worse, start leaving mean comments on them. You’ll also start experiencing an increase in CPM and CPC as you lose more in Facebook’s ad auction.
Regularly refresh your creative to avoid this. It makes a difference, even if you’re just refreshing your images or copy every month.
Standing out in the newsfeed is a big part of successful paid campaigns. If you are using photographs or videos, they need to be high quality and relatable to make the user stop scrolling through their newsfeed.
Pay special attention to resolution, aspect ratio, and how the ad units look on a mobile device. The majority of users will see your ad on their phone, so make sure it’s thumb-stopping.
Use all available placements
Facebook is always optimizing for the lowest event cost possible. The vast majority of your results will come from ads run on the Facebook or Instagram newsfeed. But don’t forget about other placements, like the sidebar, messenger, and marketplace.
Automatic placements are the best option to maximize results beyond the newsfeeds.
All placements selected.
Limited placements selected.
Optimize for mobile
Unless you specifically target only desktop device users, the majority of the impressions or clicks you receive will be from mobile devices. This means you better make sure your creative is mobile-friendly.
Make sure all of your images and videos are formatted to maximize the viewable space on mobile for the type of advertisement you are running. Your headlines and accompanying text also need to be optimized to fit.
If you’re using videos, make sure they’re formatted to a 1:1 aspect ratio (square videos) to take up the most room on the Facebook mobile newsfeed and outperform horizontal aspect videos.
Minimize restrictions for the Facebook algorithm
Don’t try to control Facebook too much. Instead, give Facebook room to show your ads to the correct users at the correct time with the least necessary targeting restrictions. The more freedom the algorithm has to use your pixel data, the better able it is to encourage conversions.
Josh Thompson is Senior Social Media Strategist at Portent—a Clearlink Digital Agency. Josh is Facebook Blueprint Certified and has worked in social media advertising for seven years.
The post Tips to maximize ROI on paid social: Facebook + Instagram appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
No one likes being stalked around the Internet by adverts. It’s the uneasy joke you can’t enjoy laughing at. Yet vast people-profiling ad businesses have made pots of money off of an unregulated Internet by putting surveillance at their core.
But what if creepy ads don’t work as claimed? What if all the filthy lucre that’s currently being sunk into the coffers of ad tech giants — and far less visible but no less privacy-trampling data brokers — is literally being sunk, and could both be more honestly and far better spent?
Case in point: This week Digiday reported that the New York Times managed to grow its ad revenue after it cut off ad exchanges in Europe. The newspaper did this in order to comply with the region’s updated privacy framework, GDPR, which includes a regime of supersized maximum fines.
The newspaper business decided it simply didn’t want to take the risk, so first blocked all open-exchange ad buying on its European pages and then nixed behavioral targeting. The result? A significant uptick in ad revenue, according to Digiday’s report.
“NYT International focused on contextual and geographical targeting for programmatic guaranteed and private marketplace deals and has not seen ad revenues drop as a result, according to Jean-Christophe Demarta, SVP for global advertising at New York Times International,” it writes.
“Currently, all the ads running on European pages are direct-sold. Although the publisher doesn’t break out exact revenues for Europe, Demarta said that digital advertising revenue has increased significantly since last May and that has continued into early 2019.”
It also quotes Demarta summing up the learnings: “The desirability of a brand may be stronger than the targeting capabilities. We have not been impacted from a revenue standpoint, and, on the contrary, our digital advertising business continues to grow nicely.”
So while (of course) not every publisher is the NYT, publishers that have or can build brand cachet, and pull in a community of engaged readers, must and should pause for thought — and ask who is the real winner from the notion that digitally served ads must creep on consumers to work?
The NYT’s experience puts fresh taint on long-running efforts by tech giants like Facebook to press publishers to give up more control and ownership of their audiences by serving and even producing content directly for the third party platforms. (Pivot to video anyone?)
Such efforts benefit platforms because they get to make media businesses dance to their tune. But the self-serving nature of pulling publishers away from their own distribution channels (and content convictions) looks to have an even more bass string to its bow — as a cynical means of weakening the link between publishers and their audiences, thereby risking making them falsely reliant on adtech intermediaries squatting in the middle of the value chain.
There are other signs behavioural advertising might be a gigantically self-serving con too.
Look at non-tracking search engine DuckDuckGo, for instance, which has been making a profit by serving keyword-based ads and not profiling users since 2014, all the while continuing to grow usage — and doing so in a market that’s dominated by search giant Google.
DDG recently took in $ 10M in VC funding from a pension fund that believes there’s an inflection point in the online privacy story. These investors are also displaying strong conviction in the soundness of the underlying (non-creepy) ad business, again despite the overbearing presence of Google.
Meanwhile, Internet users continue to express widespread fear and loathing of the ad tech industry’s bandwidth- and data-sucking practices by running into the arms of ad blockers. Figures for usage of ad blocking tools step up each year, with between a quarter and a third of U.S. connected device users’ estimated to be blocking ads as of 2018 (rates are higher among younger users).
Ad blocking firm Eyeo, maker of the popular AdBlock Plus product, has achieved such a position of leverage that it gets Google et al to pay it to have their ads whitelisted by default — under its self-styled ‘acceptable ads’ program. (Though no one will say how much they’re paying to circumvent default ad blocks.)
So the creepy ad tech industry is not above paying other third parties for continued — and, at this point, doubly grubby (given the ad blocking context) — access to eyeballs. Does that sound even slightly like a functional market?
In recent years expressions of disgust and displeasure have also been coming from the ad spending side too — triggered by brand-denting scandals attached to the hateful stuff algorithms have been serving shiny marketing messages alongside. You don’t even have to be worried about what this stuff might be doing to democracy to be a concerned advertiser.
Fast moving consumer goods giants Unilever and Procter & Gamble are two big spenders which have expressed concerns. The former threatened to pull ad spend if social network giants didn’t clean up their act and prevent their platforms algorithmically accelerating hateful and divisive content.
While the latter has been actively reevaluating its marketing spending — taking a closer look at what digital actually does for it. And last March Adweek reported it had slashed $ 200M from its digital ad budget yet had seen a boost in its reach of 10 per cent, reinvesting the money into areas with “‘media reach’ including television, audio and ecommerce”.
The company’s CMO, Marc Pritchard, declined to name which companies it had pulled ads from but in a speech at an industry conference he said it had reduced spending “with several big players” by 20 per cent to 50 per cent, and still its ad business grew.
So chalk up another tale of reduced reliance on targeted ads yielding unexpected business uplift.
At the same time, academics are digging into the opaquely shrouded question of who really benefits from behavioral advertising. And perhaps getting closer to an answer.
Last fall, at an FTC hearing on the economics of big data and personal information, Carnegie Mellon University professor of IT and public policy, Alessandro Acquisti, teased a piece of yet to be published research — working with a large U.S. publisher that provided the researchers with millions of transactions to study.
Acquisti said the research showed that behaviourally targeted advertising had increased the publisher’s revenue but only marginally. At the same time they found that marketers were having to pay orders of magnitude more to buy these targeted ads, despite the minuscule additional revenue they generated for the publisher.
“What we found was that, yes, advertising with cookies — so targeted advertising — did increase revenues — but by a tiny amount. Four per cent. In absolute terms the increase in revenues was $ 0.000008 per advertisment,” Acquisti told the hearing. “Simultaneously we were running a study, as merchants, buying ads with a different degree of targeting. And we found that for the merchants sometimes buying targeted ads over untargeted ads can be 500% times as expensive.”
“How is it possible that for merchants the cost of targeting ads is so much higher whereas for publishers the return on increased revenues for targeted ads is just 4%,” he wondered, posing a question that publishers should really be asking themselves — given, in this example, they’re the ones doing the dirty work of snooping on (and selling out) their readers.
Acquisti also made the point that a lack of data protection creates economic winners and losers, arguing this is unavoidable — and thus qualifying the oft-parroted tech industry lobby line that privacy regulation is a bad idea because it would benefit an already dominant group of players. The rebuttal is that a lack of privacy rules also does that. And that’s exactly where we are now.
“There is a sort of magical thinking happening when it comes to targeted advertising [that claims] everyone benefits from this,” Acquisti continued. “Now at first glance this seems plausible. The problem is that upon further inspection you find there is very little empirical validation of these claims… What I’m saying is that we actually don’t know very well to which these claims are true and false. And this is a pretty big problem because so many of these claims are accepted uncritically.”
There’s clearly far more research that needs to be done to robustly interrogate the effectiveness of targeted ads against platform claims and vs more vanilla types of advertising (i.e. which don’t demand reams of personal data to function). But the fact that robust research hasn’t been done is itself interesting.
Acquisti noted the difficulty of researching “opaque blackbox” ad exchanges that aren’t at all incentivized to be transparent about what’s going on. Also pointing out that Facebook has sometimes admitted to having made mistakes that significantly inflated its ad engagement metrics.
His wider point is that much current research into the effectiveness of digital ads is problematically narrow and so is exactly missing a broader picture of how consumers might engage with alternative types of less privacy-hostile marketing.
In a nutshell, then, the problem is the lack of transparency from ad platforms; and that lack serving the self same opaque giants.
But there’s more. Critics of the current system point out it relies on mass scale exploitation of personal data to function, and many believe this simply won’t fly under Europe’s tough new GDPR framework.
They are applying legal pressure via a set of GDPR complaints, filed last fall, that challenge the legality of a fundamental piece of the (current) adtech industry’s architecture: Real-time bidding (RTB); arguing the system is fundamentally incompatible with Europe’s privacy rules.
We covered these complaints last November but the basic argument is that bid requests essentially constitute systematic data breaches because personal data is broadcast widely to solicit potential ad buys and thereby poses an unacceptable security risk — rather than, as GDPR demands, people’s data being handled in a way that “ensures appropriate security”.
To spell it out, the contention is the entire behavioral advertising business is illegal because it’s leaking personal data at such vast and systematic scale it cannot possibly comply with EU data protection law.
Regulators are considering the argument, and courts may follow. But it’s clear adtech systems that have operated in opaque darkness for years, without no worry of major compliance fines, no longer have the luxury of being able to take their architecture as a given.
Greater legal risk might be catalyst enough to encourage a market shift towards less intrusive targeting; ads that aren’t targeted based on profiles of people synthesized from heaps of personal data but, much like DuckDuckGo’s contextual ads, are only linked to a real-time interest and a generic location. No creepy personal dossiers necessary.
If Acquisti’s research is to be believed — and here’s the kicker for Facebook et al — there’s little reason to think such ads would be substantially less effective than the vampiric microtargeted variant that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg likes to describe as “relevant”.
The ‘relevant ads’ badge is of course a self-serving concept which Facebook uses to justify creeping on users while also pushing the notion that its people-tracking business inherently generates major extra value for advertisers. But does it really do that? Or are advertisers buying into another puffed up fake?
Facebook isn’t providing access to internal data that could be used to quantify whether its targeted ads are really worth all the extra conjoined cost and risk. While the company’s habit of buying masses of additional data on users, via brokers and other third party sources, makes for a rather strange qualification. Suggesting things aren’t quite what you might imagine behind Zuckerberg’s drawn curtain.
Behavioral ad giants are facing growing legal risk on another front. The adtech market has long been referred to as a duopoly, on account of the proportion of digital ad spending that gets sucked up by just two people-profiling giants: Google and Facebook (the pair accounted for 58% of the market in 2018, according to eMarketer data) — and in Europe a number of competition regulators have been probing the duopoly.
Earlier this month the German Federal Cartel Office was reported to be on the brink of partially banning Facebook from harvesting personal data from third party providers (including but not limited to some other social services it owns). Though an official decision has yet to be handed down.
While, in March 2018, the French Competition Authority published a meaty opinion raising multiple concerns about the online advertising sector — and calling for an overhaul and a rebalancing of transparency obligations to address publisher concerns that dominant platforms aren’t providing access to data about their own content.
The EC’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, is also taking a closer look at whether data hoarding constitutes a monopoly. And has expressed a view that, rather than breaking companies up in order to control platform monopolies, the better way to go about it in the modern ICT era might be by limiting access to data — suggesting another potentially looming legal headwind for personal data-sucking platforms.
At the same time, the political risks of social surveillance architectures have become all too clear.
Whether microtargeted political propaganda works as intended or not is still a question mark. But few would support letting attempts to fiddle elections just go ahead and happen anyway.
Yet Facebook has rushed to normalize what are abnormally hostile uses of its tools; aka the weaponizing of disinformation to further divisive political ends — presenting ‘election security’ as just another day-to-day cost of being in the people farming business. When the ‘cost’ for democracies and societies is anything but normal.
Whether or not voters can be manipulated en masse via the medium of targeted ads, the act of targeting itself certainly has an impact — by fragmenting the shared public sphere which civilized societies rely on to drive consensus and compromise. Ergo, unregulated social media is inevitably an agent of antisocial change.
The solution to technology threatening democracy is far more transparency; so regulating platforms to understand how, why and where data is flowing, and thus get a proper handle on impacts in order to shape desired outcomes.
Greater transparency also offers a route to begin to address commercial concerns about how the modern adtech market functions.
And if and when ad giants are forced to come clean — about how they profile people; where data and value flows; and what their ads actually deliver — you have to wonder what if anything will be left unblemished.
People who know they’re being watched alter their behavior. Similarly, platforms may find behavioral change enforced upon them, from above and below, when it becomes impossible for everyone else to ignore what they’re doing.
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DJI, the world’s leading maker of consumer drones, said today that extensive corruption discovered within the company could lead to losses as great as $ 150 million in the 2018 financial year. The exact nature of the corruption is not stated, but it seems to involve dozens of people at the least.
The China Securities Journal, a state-operated finance-focused newspaper, got hold of an internal company report on a corruption investigation that said some 40 people had been investigated so far, but the numbers may also be as high as 100.
Reuters confirmed with the company that it “set up a high-level anti-corruption task force to investigate further and strengthen anti-corruption measures,” and that “a number of corruption cases have been handed over to the authorities, and some employees have been dismissed.”
When contacted for details, DJI offered a statement (just after this post went live) partly explaining the situation:
During a recent investigation, DJI itself found some employees inflated the cost of parts and materials for certain products for personal financial gain. We took swift action to address this issue, fired the bad actors, and contacted law enforcement officials. We continue to investigate the situation and are cooperating fully with law enforcement’s investigation.
We are taking steps to strengthen internal controls and have established new channels for employees to submit confidential and anonymous reports relating to any violations of the company’s ethical and workplace conduct policies.
It’s a little hard to believe that people padding invoices and giving sweetheart deals to certain contractors for kickbacks could amount to more than a million dollars per person involved, but then again, DJI makes a lot of hardware and a few well-placed people could siphon off quite a bit.
New webinar with Hanapin’s Emma Franks, Hero Conf speakers JD Prater and Joe Martinez, and SEMrush’s Alex Ponomareva. Learn how to significantly increase your visibility, engagement, and lead generation on Quora.
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Salesforce first opened an office in Dublin back in 2001, and has since expanded to 1,400 employees. Today’s announcement represents a significant commitment to expand even further, adding 1,500 new jobs over the next five years.
The new tower in Dublin is actually going to be a campus made up of four interconnecting buildings on the River Liffey. It will eventually encompass 430,000 square feet with the first employees expected to move into the new facility sometime in the middle of 2021.
Martin Shanahan, who is CEO at IDA Ireland, the state agency responsible for attracting foreign investment in Ireland, called this one of the largest single jobs announcements in the 70-year history of his organization.
As with all things Salesforce, they will do this up big with an “immersive video lobby” and a hospitality space for Salesforce employees, customers and partners. This space, which will be known as the “Ohana Floor,” will also be available for use by nonprofits.They also plan to build paths along the river that will connect the campus to the city center.
The company intends to make the project “one of the most sustainable building projects to-date” in Dublin, according to a statement announcing the project. What does that mean? It will, among other things, be a nearly Net Zero Energy building and it will use 100 percent renewable energy, including onsite solar panels.
Finally, as part of the company’s commitment to the local communities in which it operates, it announced a $ 1 million grant to Educate Together, an education nonprofit. The grant should help the organization expand its mission running equality-based schools. Salesforce has been supporting the group since 2009 with software grants, as well as a program where Salesforce employees volunteer at some of the organization’s schools.
Knowing your audience is an important part of your digital marketing strategy. These tips will help you sharpen your audience targeting.
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Reports emerged today that the FTC is considering a fine against Facebook that would be the largest ever from the agency. Even if it were 10 times the size of the largest, a $ 22.5 million bill sent to Google in 2012, the company would basically laugh it off. Facebook is made of money. But the FTC may make it provide something it has precious little of these days: accountability.
A Washington Post report cites sources inside the agency (currently on hiatus due to the shutdown) saying that regulators have “met to discuss imposing a record-setting fine.” We may as well say here that this must be taken with a grain of salt at the outset; that Facebook is non-compliant with terms set previously by the FTC is an established fact, so how much they should be made to pay is the natural next topic of discussion.
But how much would it be? The scale of the violation is hugely negotiable. Our summary of the FTC’s settlement requirements for Facebook indicate that it was:
- barred from making misrepresentations about the privacy or security of consumers’ personal information;
- required to obtain consumers’ affirmative express consent before enacting changes that override their privacy preferences;
- required to prevent anyone from accessing a user’s material more than 30 days after the user has deleted his or her account;
- required to establish and maintain a comprehensive privacy program designed to address privacy risks associated with the development and management of new and existing products and services, and to protect the privacy and confidentiality of consumers’ information; and
- required, within 180 days, and every two years after that for the next 20 years, to obtain independent, third-party audits certifying that it has a privacy program in place that meets or exceeds the requirements of the FTC order, and to ensure that the privacy of consumers’ information is protected.
How many of those did it break, and how many times? Is it per user? Per account? Per post? Per offense? What is “accessing” under such and such a circumstance? The FTC is no doubt deliberating these things.
Yet it is hard to imagine them coming up with a number that really scares Facebook. A hundred million dollars is a lot of money, for instance. But Facebook took in more than $ 13 billion in revenue last quarter. Double that fine, triple it, and Facebook bounces back.
If even a fine 10 times the size of the largest it ever threw can’t faze the target, what can the FTC do to scare Facebook into playing by the book? Make it do what it’s already supposed to be doing, but publicly.
How many ad campaigns is a user’s data being used for? How many internal and external research projects? How many copies are there? What data specifically and exactly is it collecting on any given user, how is that data stored, who has access to it, to whom is it sold or for whom is it aggregated or summarized? What is the exact nature of the privacy program it has in place, who works for it, who do they report to and what are their monthly findings?
These and dozens of other questions come immediately to mind as things Facebook should be disclosing publicly in some way or another, either directly to users in the case of how one’s data is being used, or in a more general report, such as what concrete measures are being taken to prevent exfiltration of profile data by bad actors, or how user behavior and psychology is being estimated and tracked.
Not easy or convenient questions to answer at all, let alone publicly and regularly. But if the FTC wants the company to behave, it has to impose this level of responsibility and disclosure. Because, as Facebook has already shown, it cannot be trusted to disclose it otherwise. Light touch regulation is all well and good… until it isn’t.
This may in fact be such a major threat to Facebook’s business — imagine having to publicly state metrics that are clearly at odds with what you tell advertisers and users — that it might attempt to negotiate a larger initial fine in order to avoid punitive measures such as those outlined here. Volkswagen spent billions not on fines, but in sort of punitive community service to mitigate the effects of its emissions cheating. Facebook too could be made to shell out in this indirect way.
What the FTC is capable of requiring from Facebook is an open question, since the scale and nature of these violations are unprecedented. But whatever they come up with, the part with a dollar sign in front of it — however many places it goes to — will be the least of Facebook’s worries.
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