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Tips to maximize ROI on paid social: Facebook + Instagram

January 22, 2019 No Comments

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.

Facebook Pixel

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.

Custom audiences

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.

Facebook’s Create a Custom Audience Tool

Website traffic

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.

Offline conversions

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.

Creating offline events

Lookalike audiences

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.

Lookalike audiences let you target people similar to your existing, custom audiences

Conversion tracking

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

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.  

Facebook remarketing illustration

 

Image: http://marketingjumpleads.com/facebook-remarketing

Sequential Advertising

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.

Maximizing distribution

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

All placements selected.

Image: https://www.facebook.com/business/help/965529646866485

Limited placements selected

Limited placements selected.

Image: https://www.facebook.com/business/help/965529646866485

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.

Benefits of mobile optimized video

Image: https://blog.bufferapp.com/square-video-vs-landscape-video

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.

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Facebook fears no FTC fine

January 19, 2019 No Comments

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.


Social – TechCrunch


Facebook finds and kills another 512 Kremlin-linked fake accounts

January 17, 2019 No Comments

Two years on from the U.S. presidential election, Facebook continues to have a major problem with Russian disinformation being megaphoned via its social tools.

In a blog post today the company reveals another tranche of Kremlin-linked fake activity — saying it’s removed a total of 471 Facebook pages and accounts, as well as 41 Instagram accounts, which were being used to spread propaganda in regions where Putin’s regime has sharp geopolitical interests.

In its latest reveal of “coordinated inauthentic behavior” — aka the euphemism Facebook uses for disinformation campaigns that rely on its tools to generate a veneer of authenticity and plausibility in order to pump out masses of sharable political propaganda — the company says it identified two operations, both originating in Russia, and both using similar tactics without any apparent direct links between the two networks.

One operation was targeting Ukraine specifically, while the other was active in a number of countries in the Baltics, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Central and Eastern Europe.

“We’re taking down these Pages and accounts based on their behavior, not the content they post,” writes Facebook’s Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy. “In these cases, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action.”

Sputnik link

Discussing the Russian disinformation op targeting multiple countries, Gleicher says Facebook found what looked like innocuous or general interest pages to be linked to employees of Kremlin propaganda outlet Sputnik, with some of the pages encouraging protest movements and pushing other Putin lines.

“The Page administrators and account owners primarily represented themselves as independent news Pages or general interest Pages on topics like weather, travel, sports, economics, or politicians in Romania, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Russia, and Kyrgyzstan,” he writes. “Despite their misrepresentations of their identities, we found that these Pages and accounts were linked to employees of Sputnik, a news agency based in Moscow, and that some of the Pages frequently posted about topics like anti-NATO sentiment, protest movements, and anti-corruption.”

Facebook has included some sample posts from the removed accounts in the blog which show a mixture of imagery being deployed — from a photo of a rock concert, to shots of historic buildings and a snowy scene, to obviously militaristic and political protest imagery.

In all Facebook says it removed 289 Pages and 75 Facebook accounts associated with this Russian disop; adding that around 790,000 accounts followed one or more of the removed Pages.

It also reveals that it received around $ 135,000 for ads run by the Russian operators (specifying this was paid for in euros, rubles, and U.S. dollars).

“The first ad ran in October 2013, and the most recent ad ran in January 2019,” it notes, adding: “We have not completed a review of the organic content coming from these accounts.”

These Kremlin-linked Pages also hosted around 190 events — with the first scheduled for August 2015, according to Facebook, and the most recent scheduled for January 2019. “Up to 1,200 people expressed interest in at least one of these events. We cannot confirm whether any of these events actually occurred,” it further notes.

Facebook adds that open source reporting and work by partners which investigate disinformation helped identify the network. (For more on the open source investigation check out this blog post from DFRLab.)

It also says it has shared information about the investigation with U.S. law enforcement, the U.S. Congress, other technology companies, and policymakers in impacted countries.

Ukraine tip-off

In the case of the Ukraine-targeted Russian disop, Facebook says it removed a total of 107 Facebook Pages, Groups, and accounts, and 41 Instagram accounts, specifying that it was acting on an initial tip off from U.S. law enforcement.

In all it says around 180,000 Facebook accounts were following one or more of the removed pages. While the fake Instagram accounts were being followed by more than 55,000 accounts.  

Again Facebook received money from the disinformation purveyors, saying it took in around $ 25,000 in ad spending on Facebook and Instagram in this case — all paid for in rubles this time — with the first ad running in January 2018, and the most recent in December 2018. (Again it says it has not completed a review of content the accounts were generating.)

“The individuals behind these accounts primarily represented themselves as Ukrainian, and they operated a variety of fake accounts while sharing local Ukrainian news stories on a variety of topics, such as weather, protests, NATO, and health conditions at schools,” writes Gleicher. “We identified some technical overlap with Russia-based activity we saw prior to the US midterm elections, including behavior that shared characteristics with previous Internet Research Agency (IRA) activity.”

In the Ukraine case it says it found no Events being hosted by the pages.

“Our security efforts are ongoing to help us stay a step ahead and uncover this kind of abuse, particularly in light of important political moments and elections in Europe this year,” adds Gleicher. “We are committed to making improvements and building stronger partnerships around the world to more effectively detect and stop this activity.”

A month ago Facebook also revealed it had removed another batch of politically motivated fake accounts. In that case the network behind the pages had been working to spread misinformation in Bangladesh 10 days before the country’s general elections.

This week it also emerged the company is extending some of its nascent election security measures by bringing in requirements for political advertisers to more international markets ahead of major elections in the coming months, such as checks that a political advertiser is located in the country.

However in other countries which also have big votes looming this year Facebook has yet to announced any measures to combat politically charged fakes.


Social – TechCrunch


How to Use Asset Placement Customization in Facebook

January 16, 2019 No Comments

Learn step-by-step how to optimize images and videos across the various placements available in the Facebook Ads Platform.

Read more at PPCHero.com
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Increase Conversions In Facebook And Decrease Cost Per Conversion

January 8, 2019 No Comments

Explore how I increased conversions 74% while decreasing cost per conversion 43% by using one easy tool.

Read more at PPCHero.com
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Marketing Events In Facebook

January 4, 2019 No Comments

Explore valuable insights for marketing events in Facebook discovered by testing and analyzing data for over a year!

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At a New York Privacy Pop-Up, Facebook Sells Itself

December 14, 2018 No Comments

The one-day pop-up kiosk is meant to show that Facebook takes users’ privacy concerns seriously. It also was an opportunity to gather more data.
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Facebook redesigns Life Events feature with animated photos, videos and more

December 12, 2018 No Comments

Facebook today announced a redesign of its “Life Events” feature, which allows people to share significant milestones in their life, like an engagement, graduation, a new job, a move to a new city, and more. The feature has existed since the launch of Timeline, but has to date offered a fairly nondescript type of post. Today, that’s changing, Facebook says. Now, users will be able to add animated photos or videos, photos from the people or Page you’ve tagged (like those of your partner or your new workplace), or you you can pick an image from Facebook’s own art collection, if you don’t have your own.

The photos and videos you post will also have subtle animations, like slowly zooming in, to give the post more attention. And you can still pick an icon to represent the life event, as before.

The idea behind the redesign is to give these sorts of posts a better way to stand out from other posts, the company explains

 

Of course, Facebook likely wants to increase the feature’s adoption, too, as it’s a straightforward way to collect profile data on an individual that they may not have otherwise filled out – like where they live, where they work, or their alma mater, for example.

Facebook will also now alert your friends directly when you’ve shared some life events, it says.

For certain types of life events – like changes in your current city, work, education, and relationship status – your friends may receive a notification to let them know about the news. This ensures they won’t miss the update if they were just casually scrolling their News Feed. And it’s a way to make sure the event gets seen by your broader network of Facebook friends – including those acquaintances whose updates don’t regularly show in your News Feed, as Facebook’s algorithms have determined you aren’t close.

In addition, when you react to a life event someone else posted with a like, wow, heart, etc., Facebook now shows all the other reactions from friends alongside your own.

Perhaps most importantly, is that Facebook is finally giving life events a place of importance on users’ profiles.

While the feature for years has been touted as a way to remember significant events, it’s actually been fairly difficult to relocate your older life event posts from years ago. With the update, however, life events will have their own dedicated section on user profiles. (You can opt to hide a life event here by tapping the “…” button then selecting “Hide from Timeline,” if you choose).

This will give people visiting your profile for the first time a way to get to know you, by way of the most important moments you’ve shared through this feature. That may not be something everyone is comfortable with, though, so you’ll want to check to see if there are any older life event posts you need to hide or delete.

The updated life events are rolling out worldwide on iOS, Android and desktop beginning today, and completing in the days ahead.

Facebook Life Events

Posted by Facebook on Tuesday, December 11, 2018


Social – TechCrunch


FB QVC? Facebook tries Live video shopping

December 7, 2018 No Comments

Want to run your own home shopping network? Facebook is now testing a Live video feature for merchants that lets them demo and describe their items for viewers. Customers can screenshot something they want to buy and use Messenger to send it to the seller, who can then request payment right through the chat app.

Facebook confirms the new shopping feature is currently in testing with a limited set of Pages in Thailand, which has been a testbed for shopping features. The option was first spotted by social media and reputation manager Jeff Higgins, and re-shared by Matt Navarra and Social Media Today. But now Facebook is confirming the test’s existence and providing additional details.

The company tells me it had heard feedback from the community in Thailand that Live video helped sellers demonstrate how items could be used or worn, and provided richer understanding than just using photos. Users also told Facebook that Live’s interactivity let customers instantly ask questions and get answers about product specifications and details. Facebook has looked to Thailand to test new commerce experiences like home rentals in Marketplace, as the country’s citizens were quick to prove how Facebook Groups could be used for peer-to-peer shopping. “Thailand is one of our most active Marketplace communities” says Mayank Yadav, Facebook product manager for Marketplace.

Now it’s running the Live shopping test, which allows Pages to notify fans that they’re broadcasting to “showcase products and connect with your customers.” Merchants can take reservations and request payments through Messenger. Facebook tells me it doesn’t currently have plans to add new partners or expand the feature. But some sellers without access are being invited to join a waitlist for the feature. It also says it’s working closely with its test partners to gather feedback and iterate on the live video shopping experience, which would seem to indicate it’s interested in opening the feature more widely if it performs well.

Facebook doesn’t take a cut of payments through Messenger, but the feature could still help earn the company money at a time when it’s seeking revenue streams beyond News Feed ads as it runs out of space there, Stories take over as the top media form and user growth plateaus. Hooking people on video viewing helps Facebook show lucrative video ads. The more that Facebook can train users to buy and sell things on its app, the better the conversion rates will be for businesses, and the more they’ll be willing to spend on ads. Facebook could also convince sellers who broadcast Live to buy its new Marketplace ad units to promote their wares. And Facebook is happy to snatch any use case from the rest of the internet, whether it’s long-form video viewing or job applications or shopping to boost time on site and subsequent ad views.

Increasingly, Facebook is setting its sights on Craigslist, Etsy and eBay. Those commerce platforms have failed to keep up with new technologies like video and lack the trust generated by Facebook’s real-name policy and social graph. A few years ago, selling something online meant typing up a generic description and maybe uploading a photo. Soon it could mean starring in your own infomercial.

[PostScript: And a Facebook home shopping network could work perfectly on its new countertop smart display Portal.]


Social – TechCrunch


Seized cache of Facebook docs raise competition and consent questions

December 5, 2018 No Comments

A UK parliamentary committee has published the cache of Facebook documents it dramatically seized last week.

The documents were obtained by a legal discovery process by a startup that’s suing the social network in a California court in a case related to Facebook changing data access permissions back in 2014/15.

The court had sealed the documents but the DCMS committee used rarely deployed parliamentary powers to obtain them from the Six4Three founder, during a business trip to London.

You can read the redacted documents here — all 250 pages of them.

In a series of tweets regarding the publication, committee chair Damian Collins says he believes there is “considerable public interest” in releasing them.

“They raise important questions about how Facebook treats users data, their policies for working with app developers, and how they exercise their dominant position in the social media market,” he writes.

“We don’t feel we have had straight answers from Facebook on these important issues, which is why we are releasing the documents. We need a more public debate about the rights of social media users and the smaller businesses who are required to work with the tech giants. I hope that our committee investigation can stand up for them.”

The committee has been investigating online disinformation and election interference for the best part of this year, and has been repeatedly frustrated in its attempts to extract answers from Facebook.

But it is protected by parliamentary privilege — hence it’s now published the Six4Three files, having waited a week in order to redact certain pieces of personal information.

Collins has included a summary of key issues, as the committee sees them after reviewing the documents, in which he draws attention to six issues.

Here is his summary of the key issues:

  1. White Lists Facebook have clearly entered into whitelisting agreements with certain companies, which meant that after the platform changes in 2014/15 they maintained full access to friends data. It is not clear that there was any user consent for this, nor how Facebook decided which companies should be whitelisted or not.
  2. Value of friends data It is clear that increasing revenues from major app developers was one of the key drivers behind the Platform 3.0 changes at Facebook. The idea of linking access to friends data to the financial value of the developers relationship with Facebook is a recurring feature of the documents.
  3. Reciprocity Data reciprocity between Facebook and app developers was a central feature in the discussions about the launch of Platform 3.0.
  4. Android Facebook knew that the changes to its policies on the Android mobile phone system, which enabled the Facebook app to collect a record of calls and texts sent by the user would be controversial. To mitigate any bad PR, Facebook planned to make it as hard of possible for users to know that this was one of the underlying features of the upgrade of their app.
  5. Onavo Facebook used Onavo to conduct global surveys of the usage of mobile apps by customers, and apparently without their knowledge. They used this data to assess not just how many people had downloaded apps, but how often they used them. This knowledge helped them to decide which companies to acquire, and which to treat as a threat.
  6. Targeting competitor Apps The files show evidence of Facebook taking aggressive positions against apps, with the consequence that denying them access to data led to the failure of that business

The publication of the files comes at an awkward moment for Facebook — which remains on the back foot after a string of data and security scandals, and has just announced a major policy change — ending a long-running ban on apps copying its own platform features.

Albeit the timing of Facebook’s policy shift announcement hardly looks incidental — given Collins said last week the committee would publish the files this week.

The policy in question has been used by Facebook to close down competitors in the past, such as — two years ago — when it cut off style transfer app Prisma’s access to its live-streaming Live API when the startup tried to launch a livestreaming art filter (Facebook subsequently launched its own style transfer filters for Live).

So its policy reversal now looks intended to diffuse regulatory scrutiny around potential antitrust concerns.

But emails in the Six4Three files suggesting that Facebook took “aggressive positions” against competing apps could spark fresh competition concerns.

In one email dated January 24, 2013, a Facebook staffer, Justin Osofsky, discusses Twitter’s launch of its short video clip app, Vine, and says Facebook’s response will be to close off its API access.

As part of their NUX, you can find friends via FB. Unless anyone raises objections, we will shut down their friends API access today. We’ve prepared reactive PR, and I will let Jana know our decision,” he writes. 

Osofsky’s email is followed by what looks like a big thumbs up from Zuckerberg, who replies: “Yup, go for it.”

Also of concern on the competition front is Facebook’s use of a VPN startup it acquired, Onavo, to gather intelligence on competing apps — either for acquisition purposes or to target as a threat to its business.

The files show various Onavo industry charts detailing reach and usage of mobile apps and social networks — with each of these graphs stamped ‘highly confidential’.

Facebook bought Onavo back in October 2013. Shortly after it shelled out $ 19BN to acquire rival messaging app WhatsApp — which one Onavo chart in the cache indicates was beasting Facebook on mobile, accounting for well over double the daily message sends at that time.

The files also spotlight several issues of concern relating to privacy and data protection law, with internal documents raising fresh questions over how or even whether (in the case of Facebook’s whitelisting agreements with certain developers) it obtained consent from users to process their personal data.

The company is already facing a number of privacy complaints under the EU’s GDPR framework over its use of ‘forced consent‘, given that it does not offer users an opt-out from targeted advertising.

But the Six4Three files look set to pour fresh fuel on the consent fire.

Collins’ fourth line item — related to an Android upgrade — also speaks loudly to consent complaints.

Earlier this year Facebook was forced to deny that it collects calls and SMS data from users of its Android apps without permission. But, as we wrote at the time, it had used privacy-hostile design tricks to sneak expansive data-gobbling permissions past users. So, put simple, people clicked ‘agree’ without knowing exactly what they were agreeing to.

The Six4Three files back up the notion that Facebook was intentionally trying to mislead users.

In one email dated November 15, 2013, from Matt Scutari, manager privacy and public policy, suggests ways to prevent users from choosing to set a higher level of privacy protection, writing: “Matt is providing policy feedback on a Mark Z request that Product explore the possibility of making the Only Me audience setting unsticky. The goal of this change would be to help users avoid inadvertently posting to the Only Me audience. We are encouraging Product to explore other alternatives, such as more aggressive user education or removing stickiness for all audience settings.”

Another awkward trust issue for Facebook which the documents could stir up afresh relates to its repeat claim — including under questions from lawmakers — that it does not sell user data.

In one email from the cache — sent by Mark Zuckerberg, dated October 7, 2012 — the Facebook founder appears to be entertaining the idea of charging developers for “reading anything, including friends”.

Yet earlier this year, when he was asked by a US lawmaker how Facebook makes money, Zuckerberg replied: “Senator, we sell ads.”

He did not include a caveat that he had apparently personally entertained the idea of liberally selling access to user data.

Responding to the publication of the Six4Three documents, a Facebook spokesperson told us:

As we’ve said many times, the documents Six4Three gathered for their baseless case are only part of the story and are presented in a way that is very misleading without additional context. We stand by the platform changes we made in 2015 to stop a person from sharing their friends’ data with developers. Like any business, we had many of internal conversations about the various ways we could build a sustainable business model for our platform. But the facts are clear: we’ve never sold people’s data.

Zuckerberg has repeatedly refused to testify in person to the DCMS committee.

At its last public hearing — which was held in the form of a grand committee comprising representatives from nine international parliaments, all with burning questions for Facebook — the company sent its policy VP, Richard Allan, leaving an empty chair where Zuckerberg’s bum should be.


Social – TechCrunch