Is Facebook Listening? (And So What If They Are.)

Fatemeh Khatibloo

From time to time, an anecdote comes across our desks that, as researchers, we find hard to leave alone. A few months ago, one of these opportunities appeared, and we thought it might be interesting to lift the hood, and show you how we dig into tough research hypotheses and decide if and when to write about them. Here's what happened.

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Over a period of a few days this winter, we heard from one colleague, then another – 20 in all -- that conversations they'd had IRL ("in real life") seemingly resulted in ads and sponsored posts in Facebook. Given the state of "surveillance marketing," we weren't that surprised, until we read Facebook's T&Cs. There, the company explicitly stated that it wouldn't use data collected from a user's microphone for ad targeting. That's when we got curious.

First, we looked to the obvious: had our colleagues searched for the advertised item after having had the conversation? Had they checked into the same place as their friend, at the same time? Were they on the same network -- and thus sharing an IP address -- as someone who'd searched for the product or service? We rounded up the answers to these questions, and determined that "interest-by-proxy" was an unlikely cause.

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Security and risk professionals: Team up with your marketing peers to design your customers' privacy experiences

Enza Iannopollo

The battle over ad blockers has never been fiercer: Their popularity with consumers is skyrocketing across the globe. Ad blockers offer a better online experience and have become easier to use. But consumers like them as a way to protect their privacy and their data from being misused. Firms increasingly think that their best bet is to block the blockers. But a recent study has shown that this strategy is just a losing game, as it has contributed to the deep decline in traffic figures. And the problem doesn’t end there; the EU recently made its voice heard by saying that blocking ad blockers is a practice that breaches EU privacy rules.

But what about your customers? If you use ad blockers, just think of the last time you wanted to check out an article online but were asked to uninstall your ad blocker first or, possibly worse, to fill in your details to “freely” enjoy your read.

Security, risk, and privacy professionals must be mindful that the privacy practices that they design and enforce have a direct effect on the customer’s interaction with their firms. As much as they think about compliance, they must consider the privacy experience of their customers too. And this is one of the examples where the collaboration with marketing leaders, including customer experience, customer insight, and the marketing leadership, becomes extremely important.

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