April 6, 2018 · 7:00 pm

What’s Happening with Facebook? Should I Stay?

Before you delete Facebook, read this post.

By Kelly Johnson

You’ve probably seen the news about Facebook on news sites and in your social feeds. People are understandably concerned about what Facebook is doing with their data.

But what’s really going on? Here’s a simple explanation of what’s happening with Facebook, and a few options for you to make a decision on what to do next.

Why Is Everyone Freaking Out About Facebook Now?

Do you feel anxiety about your data footprint? Welcome to the club. Unless you’re using a privacy browser, proxy URLs, or other protective measures, all of your moves on the internet are tracked.

Sometimes you willingly hand over personal data. For example, you may input your date of birth to a site to verify you’re old enough to see mature content. You may tell a dating service your religion or sexual preference to help them match you with potential life-partners.

Other data is imputed. Google remembers your searches to make your search experience more efficient and personalized. If you use Chrome, Google is also unifying your internet habits across all of your devices.

What’s more, hundreds of companies track your web surfing habits to understand your interests so they can target ads to you more effectively. (If you’re viewing this on Chrome, you can see how companies are tracking you here: chrome://settings/siteData.)

Facebook, by virtue of its popularity with adults, gets a lot of attention for the way it captures and stores data about you — and not just on Facebook but anywhere on the internet it can see your actions.

This has been a source of consternation and controversy for a decade now, but it really heated up before and after the 2016 election. Some sketchy people —  including Russia’s Internet Research Agency —  used Facebook’s targeting to spread misinformation meant to sway American politics.

What Did Cambridge Analytica Do and Why Does it Matter?

Like many third parties, Cambridge Analytica (CA) used Facebook data to target advertising to Facebook users. However, the difference was that CA took advantage of a gap in Facebook’s data protection, which willfully violated Facebook’s policies and which Facebook failed to prevent.

Simply put, an academic associated with CA created a personality test that required users to opt into sharing a lot of personal Facebook data. But, it also allowed CA to access the personal data of all their Facebook friends, which by the latest count amounted to over 87 million Facebook users.

The loophole let CA target ads and promote psychologically manipulative messages based on data they shouldn’t have accessed in order to drive turnout for their clients (including Donald Trump) and suppress turnout for their opponents.

This has placed a lot of attention not just on Facebook’s data security, but on the sheer volume of Facebook’s data and the assumptions that it makes about you.

How Are Facebook’s New Privacy Changes Affecting People Who Use Facebook?

The biggest change is to developers. If you use any products that access Facebook (including Sensai), you may be affected. Facebook is strongly limiting third-party access in new and evolving ways, including access to Instagram. This means if you use apps, sites or services that access your Facebook profile, you may see disruptions to those services. We’re watching this closely at Sensai since it impacts all of our customers who use Facebook-owned services.

Should I Worry About My Data? Should I #DeleteFacebook?

That’s a tough question. Here are the five issues you need to understand. They’re related but distinct.

Issue No.1

Take a look at the data Facebook already has about you. You may have told Facebook a lot about yourself. Take a peek at your profile and decide if you want Facebook to know everything. Do they need to know all your jobs? Your high school? Your family relationships?

Remember, you may have described yourself to a lot of websites over the years, including ones that you haven’t visited since you traded in your last flip phone. So, even completely obliterating your Facebook profile would only make a dent in your overall data profile.

Issue No.2

Facebook uses data to help advertisers target you. Unlike the universe of web trackers out there, Facebook actually gives you some control over this. If you visit your ad preferences, you can see which factors you’ve permitted Facebook to use to identify your interests and purchase behaviors.

You can disable the factors or delete interests that you’re not comfortable with Facebook using. The net impact will be less relevant ads for you.

Issue No.3

There is data that you let people see. In your privacy settings, you can determine who can view your profile info, your photos, etc. It’s worth re-checking this every few months because Facebook adds new factors to the settings every now and then.

Issue No. 4

There is data that lets people discover you. How easily do you want to be found? Facebook’s mission is to “connect the world,” so it defaults your settings to keep you discoverable. You may want this for your Page but not your personal profile. You can also adjust this in your privacy settings.

Issue No. 5

There’s the data that Facebook shares. Ostensibly, Facebook doesn’t share any data without your expressed permission. The reason why the Cambridge Analytica revelation was such a scandal was that they acquired Facebook data without permission, simply because a friend opted in. Facebook has shut down this kind of information sharing, which is a good thing for privacy-minded people.

For now, it’s a good idea to look at the apps that you’ve connected to Facebook and shut off the ones you don’t use anymore.

Should I Engage People Differently on Facebook Now?

The new privacy changes shouldn’t impact your normal, organic interactions with your fans or customers on Facebook. If you’re using ads to reach more people, you’ll see some changes to how you can target people.

A bigger change happened earlier this year when Facebook announced changes to its News Feed algorithm. If you’ve been using Facebook for a while, you’ve likely observed that it’s become harder to reach people with posts from your page. You increasingly have to pay to reach people. Facebook has become more of an advertising platform than content platform for businesses.

Beyond that, Facebook has told us that the posts that will succeed in News Feed are those that drive conversation among friends. Facebook declared that it wants visits by its users to be more meaningful and positive, and that means more active conversation.

So, if you want your content to travel across News Feed, then you need to post content that gets people talking.

We hope this helps you understand what’s happening with Facebook, and this gives you some reassurance and confidence in your presence there. Be sure to follow Sensai on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to stay updated on best practices to improve your social media performance.

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