Facebook Face-off: What's It All Mean For Emailers?

Having gotten religion when it comes to privacy, Facebook is now showing a tendency all too common with converts: zealotry.

As well it might. The social media giant admitted today that data on up to 87 million people in the U.S. may have been shared with Cambridge Analytica.

Grilled on that tardy acknowledgement during a call with reporters on Wednesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the company had only now finalized its understanding of the situation.

But he said it now understands it has “broader responsibilities” beyond mere product development. It expects to have 20,000 people working on security by the end of the year -- up from 15,000 now -- and it announced several new measures to limit “scraping” and other forms of data misuse.

Contrary to a report that it might not be doing so, Zuckerberg added that Facebook is practicing GDPR-type controls around the globe. “Overall, I think regulations like GDPR are very positive,” he said.



So the question remains: is it good for email marketers?

Not necessarily. Facebook announced last week that it is working on a new tool to certify that email addresses that firms are uploading have been obtained with proper consent, according to TechCrunch. And it will require them to do so.

As part of its Custom Audiences program, “advertisers will be required to represent and warrant that proper user consent has been obtained for the use of any data uploaded.”

Of course, responsible email marketers have long asked for permission, and most rental email lists are permission-based. 

And headlines on this development have alluded to email marketers, just as last week’s stories about Facebook’s scrapping of its Partner Categories program mentioned “data brokers.” We wonder: why are business segments that have nothing to do with the scandal being dragged into this? Not all need to be saved. 

Zuckerberg said there has been no measurable harm to the firm. But one might counter that it does face legal exposure — and reputational harm. For example, Facebook has lost trust, even within the tech community.

Barracuda surveyed 350 attendees at the recent Cloud Expo Europe show in London. It found that 55% now trust Facebook less. What’s more, 12% have gone so far as to delete their accounts and 29% have taken measures to amend their security and thin their sharing.

Then there’s the general fallout. The incident has brought the privacy issue to the forefront, with nightly news shows now reporting daily privacy updates.

“For years my family had no idea what we did.. Now they know, not necessarily in a good way,” jokes Daina Middleton, CEO of Ansira. 

So what can companies do now that Facebook is requiring proof of consent?

“Permission is key in the online relationship,” says Ryan Phelan, VP of marketing insights for Adestra. “We all hate irrelevant information in our inboxes and online, and that’s why this Facebook move is interesting.”

How so?

“What is going to be critical is to understand how Facebook defines permission. Is it inferred, implied or explicit? Beyond that, what is the permission granted for?  That’s one of the substantial elements of GDPR — it is not only permission that matters, but permission for the type of use.”

Phelan adds: “There are a whole host of challenges behind this and getting the marketer to comply. It will be interesting to see how this rolls out in practicality and application.”

We’ll leave the last word to Zuckerberg, who said he will not step down over the flap: “It’s a never ending battle,” he said about fighting bad actors. “You never really solve security. It’s an arms race.”




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