The Big Story
Retailers Don’t “Like” or Want to “Share” Facebook’s Problems
Perhaps nothing else captured the country’s attention last week more than the questioning of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Capitol Hill. The hearings were spurred by recent revelations that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica accessed the personal information of 87 million Facebook users over a period of years. For nearly ten hours across two days, House and Senate legislators grilled Zuckerberg on his company’s privacy policies and the security of its users’ private data. Underpinning the hearings was the question of whether Congress needs to regulate social media specifically, or internet companies generally, in order to protect consumers’ privacy. Regulation could provide comfort for social media users, but it could create issues for internet marketers and groups that employ them, including retailers.
Both marketers and sketchier actors such as Cambridge Analytica use data about people collected on the internet to achieve their goals. “Likes,” friends, demographics, geographical locations, purchase histories, browsing histories, and more can be cataloged and attributed to individuals associated with unique IP addresses. Those individuals can then be targeted with great precision with various ads and messages online, ranging from the innocuous (picture a promotional offer for baby shampoo), to the devious (such as fake news stories designed to influence an election).