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Tag: Data

How Data Science Can Improve PPC Performance

May 23, 2020 No Comments

This will look at the concept of data science, the tools and knowledge you need to make it work, some common PPC issues, and how data science can help fix them.

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Assessing Your PPC Data and Analytics Needs

April 26, 2020 No Comments

Properly assessing your data and analytics needs often starts with understanding the problem and developing the proper mindset.

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How To View Google Ads Data In Google Analytics

March 17, 2020 No Comments

Connecting your Google Ads and Google Analytics accounts is not required, but there are several reasons why you should consider linking them today.

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Mastering Data: Marketing and Analytics Workshop

February 7, 2020 No Comments

Get the skills you need to better understand marketing performance, uncover new insights, build custom reports & dashboards, maximize leads, revenue, & ROAS +more.

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Key Google Analytics Features For Effectively Analyzing Data

December 22, 2019 No Comments

Effectively (and quickly) analyzing your data is critical when it comes to PPC performance. This article covers secondary dimensions, advanced filters, and pivot views to help you better segment and view your performance.

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Excel For Marketers: Make Your PPC Dashboards Dynamic With Data Validation

December 9, 2019 No Comments

PPC dashboards are great for account managers, but they’re even better if they’re dynamic. In this post, I’ll walk you through the steps to create a dynamic dashboard.

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European parliament’s NationBuilder contract under investigation by data regulator

November 29, 2019 No Comments

Europe’s lead data regulator has issued its first ever sanction of an EU institution — taking enforcement action against the European parliament over its use of US-based digital campaign company, NationBuilder, to process citizens’ voter data ahead of the spring elections.

Software provider NationBuilder is a veteran of the digital campaign space — indeed, we first covered the company back in 2011— which has become nearly ubiquitous tool for digital campaigns in some markets.

But in recent years European privacy regulators have raised questions over whether all its data processing activities comply with regional data protection rules, responding to growing concern around election integrity and data-fuelled online manipulation of voters.

The European parliament had used NationBuilder as a data processor for a public engagement campaign to promote voting in the spring election, which was run via a website called thistimeimvoting.eu.

The website collected personal data from more than 329,000 people interested in the EU election campaign — data that was processed on behalf of the parliament by NationBuilder.

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), which started an investigation in February 2019, acting on its own initiative — and “taking into account previous controversy surrounding this company” as its press release puts it — found the parliament had contravened regulations governing how EU institutions can use personal data related to the selection and approval of sub-processors used by NationBuilder.

The sub-processors in question are not named. (We’ve asked for more details.)

“The issue EDPS had was with the Parliament’s lack of awareness of the extent of the processing being carried out by third parties and the lack of prior authorisation, by Parliament as data controller, provided in advance of the processing,” an EDPS spokesman told us.

The parliament received a second reprimand from the EDPS after it failed to publish a compliant Privacy Policy for the thistimeimvoting website within the deadline set by the EDPS. Although the regulator says it acted in line with its recommendations in the case of both sanctions.

The EDPS also has an ongoing investigation into whether the Parliament’s use of the voter mobilization website, and related processing operations of personal data, were in accordance with rules applicable to EU institutions (as set out in Regulation (EU) 2018/1725).

The enforcement actions had not been made public until a hearing earlier this week — when assistant data protection supervisor, Wojciech Wiewiórowski, mentioned the matter during a Q&A session in front of MEPs.

He referred to the investigation as “one of the most important cases we did this year”, without naming the data processor. “Parliament was not able to create the real auditing actions at the processor,” he told MEPs. “Neither control the way the contract has been done.”

“Fortunately nothing bad happened with the data but we had to make this contract terminated the data being erased,” he added.

When TechCrunch asked the EDPS for more details about this case on Tuesday a spokesperson told us the matter is “still ongoing” and “being finalized” and that it would communicate about it soon.

Today’s press release looks to be the upshot.

Provided canned commentary in the release Wiewiórowski writes:

The EU parliamentary elections came in the wake of a series of electoral controversies, both within the EU Member States and abroad, which centred on the the threat posed by online manipulation. Strong data protection rules are essential for democracy, especially in the digital age. They help to foster trust in our institutions and the democratic process, through promoting the responsible use of personal data and respect for individual rights. With this in mind, starting in February 2019, the EDPS acted proactively and decisively in the interest of all individuals in the EU to ensure that the European Parliament upholds the highest of standards when collecting and using personal data. It has been encouraging to see a good level of cooperation developing between the EDPS and the European Parliament over the course of this investigation.

One question that arises is why no firmer sanction has been issued to the European parliament — beyond a (now public) reprimand, some nine months after the investigation began.

The EDPS spokesman told us the decision was taken not to impose an administrative fine because the parliament complied with its recommendations.

Another question is why the matter was not more transparently communicated to EU citizens. On that the spokesman said it was because part of the investigation is ongoing.

“The EDPS is still investigating with the European Parliament, and received additional evidence. We are now completing our analysis of that evidence, and we anticipate closing the investigation in the near future,” he added.

The EDPS’ PR says it will “continue to check the parliament’s data protection processes” — revealing that the European Parliament has finished informing individuals of a revised intention to retain personal data collected by the thistimeimvoting website until 2024.

“The outcome of these checks could lead to additional findings,” it also warns, adding that it intends to finalise the investigation by the end of this year.

Asked about the case, a spokeswoman for the European parliament told us that the thistimeimvoting campaign had been intended to motivate EU citizens to participate in the democratic process, and that it used a mix of digital tools and traditional campaigning techniques in order to try to reach as many potential voters as possible. 

She said NationBuilder had been used as a customer relations management platform to support staying in touch with potential voters — via an offer to interested citizens to sign up to receive information from the parliament about the elections (including events and general info).

Subscribers were also asked about their interests — which allowed the parliament to send personalized information to people who had signed up.

Some of the regulatory concerns around NationBuilder have centered on how it allows campaigns to match data held in their databases (from people who have signed up) with social media data that’s publicly available, such as an unlocked Twitter account or public Facebook profile.

TechCrunch understands the European parliament was not using this feature.

In 2017 in France, after an intervention by the national data watchdog, NationBuilder suspended the data matching tool in the market.

The same feature has attracted attention from the UK’s Information Commissioner — which warned last year that political parties should be providing a privacy notice to individuals whose data is collected from public sources such as social media and matched. Yet aren’t.

“The ICO is concerned about political parties using this functionality without adequate information being provided to the people affected,” the ICO said in the report, while stopping short of ordering a ban on the use of the matching feature.

Its investigation confirmed that up to 200 political parties or campaign groups used NationBuilder during the 2017 UK general election.

NationBuilder has now sent us a statement in response to the news of the regulator’s action. In it a spokesperson said:

NationBuilder exists to help people participate in the democratic process. Our software is designed to scale authentic, one-to-one relationships. As the European Parliament has explained, they used NationBuilder’s software for customer relationship management to motivate democratic participation among EU citizens in the 2019 European Parliament elections. We are incredibly proud to have helped power that effort.

NationBuilder was founded on the belief that everyone should own their own data and, as such, our software incorporates advanced privacy and consent tools that enable our customers to comply with relevant data protection laws. The sanctity of customer data is core to our company — we do not share or sell our customers’ data, and every NationBuilder customer has a self-contained database.

We agree with the EDPS that strong data protection rules are essential for democracy, especially in the digital age. NationBuilder is — and always has been — committed to the highest standards of privacy and data protection.

The company also disputes that its contract with the EU parliament was terminated — saying it came to a natural end at the conclusion of the spring election.

This report was updated with additional comment


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Facebook says government demands for user data are at a record high

November 14, 2019 No Comments

Facebook’s latest transparency report is out.

The social media giant said the number of government demands for user data increased by 16% to 128,617 demands during the first half of this year compared to the second half of last year.

That’s the highest number of government demands it has received in any reporting period since it published its first transparency report in 2013.

The U.S. government led the way with the most number of requests — 50,741 demands for user data resulting in some account or user data given to authorities in 88% of cases. Facebook said two-thirds of all the U.S. government’s requests came with a gag order, preventing the company from telling the user about the request for their data.

But Facebook said it was able to release details of 11 so-called national security letters (NSLs) for the first time after their gag provisions were lifted during the period. National security letters can compel companies to turn over non-content data at the request of the FBI. These letters are not approved by a judge, and often come with a gag order preventing their disclosure. But since the Freedom Act passed in 2015, companies have been allowed to request the lifting of those gag orders.

The report also said the social media giant had detected 67 disruptions of its services in 15 countries, compared to 53 disruptions in nine countries during the second half of last year.

And, the report said Facebook also pulled 11.6 million pieces of content, up from 5.8 million in the same period a year earlier, which Facebook said violated its policies on child nudity and sexual exploitation of children.

The social media giant also included Instagram in its report for the first time, including removing 1.68 million pieces of content during the second and third quarter of the year.

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How to Pivot Paid Search Data in Excel

November 12, 2019 No Comments

Create Pivot tables to analyze how campaigns are performing across different marketing platforms, campaign type, and client-specific goals.

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Saudi Arabia reportedly recruited Twitter employees to steal personal data of activists

November 7, 2019 No Comments

Saudi Arabian officials allegedly paid at least two employees of Twitter to access personal information on users the government there was interested in, according to recently unsealed court documents. Those users were warned of the attempt in 2015, but the full picture is only now emerging.

According to an AP report citing the federal complaint, Ahmad Abouammo and Ali Alzabarah were both approached by the Saudi government, which promised “a designer watch and tens of thousands of dollars” if they could retrieve personal information on certain users.

Abouammo worked for Twitter in media partnerships in the Middle East, and Alzabarah was an engineer; both are charged with acting as unregistered Saudi agents — spies.

Alzabarah reportedly met with a member of the Saudi royal family in Washington, D.C. in 2015, and within a week he had begun accessing data on thousands of users, including at least 33 that Saudi Arabia had officially contacted Twitter to request information on. These users included political activists and journalists critical of the royal family and Saudi government.

This did not go unnoticed and Alzabarah, when questioned by his supervisors, reportedly said he had only done it out of curiosity. But when he was forced to leave work, he flew to Saudi Arabia with his family literally the next day, and now works for the government there.

The attempt resulted in Twitter alerting thousands of users that they were the potential targets of a state-sponsored attack, but that there was no evidence their personal data had actually been exfiltrated. Last year, The New York Times reported that this event had been prompted by a Twitter employee groomed by Saudi officials for the purpose. And now we learn there was another employee engaged in similar activity.

The cases in question are still open and as such more information will likely come to light soon. I asked Twitter for comment on the events and what specifically it had done to prevent similar attacks in the future. It did not respond directly to these queries, instead providing the following statement:

We would like to thank the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice for their support with this investigation. We recognize the lengths bad actors will go to try and undermine our service. Our company limits access to sensitive account information to a limited group of trained and vetted employees. We understand the incredible risks faced by many who use Twitter to share their perspectives with the world and to hold those in power accountable. We have tools in place to protect their privacy and their ability to do their vital work. We’re committed to protecting those who use our service to advocate for equality, individual freedoms, and human rights.


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