The Real Story of the Latest Facebook Scandal and Zuckerberg’s Hearing

The media continues to contort this Cambridge Analytica-Facebook story. I was just on CNN International to shed some light on this “scandal.”

Dennis on CNN1

This is what you need to know about the Facebook Fiasco.

1) Facebook cannot solve this problem.

There was no data breach. It was never possible for Cambridge Analytica to use that data for personalized targeting.

This is a user education issue disguised as a security problem.

2) Almost everything you hear about this situation is horribly misinformed.

Cambridge Analytica, the self-proclaimed experts, and the media are not engineers, so they manipulate the public for whatever story sounds best to them, regardless of the facts.

3) Government regulation isn’t the answer, either.

These smart, underpaid lawyers, some who have data science backgrounds, understand that “something must be done”, but don’t have a technical solution when the masses willingly give away their data to any app, social network, manufacturer, or retailer.

4) The situation is only going to get worse.

Holding attention is the primary goal for Facebook, since more attention means more ads served. The algorithms of Facebook and Google use Relevance Score and Quality Score to seek the highest engagement rate, so incendiary content naturally wins.

5) People will gradually see Facebook as the obvious scapegoat.

Facebook will be the lightning rod, while the massive network of companies that have truly scary data powers (I’ve seen what they do first-hand and you have never heard of them) will quietly keep growing.

6) The thing that will perhaps kill Facebook is their reaction to regulation and public outcry, not the actions themselves.

In the midst of their crisis, which they have only finally admitted is a problem, they ignore advocates like us who understand the system and have 3rd party, objective authority to educate the public about how to behave online.

Dennis on CNN 21

Here’s my take from my recent segment on CNN.

HOWELL: From an insider perspective, an industry inside or like yourself. I’d like to get your thoughts about Zuckerberg’s apology, saying that they didn’t do enough at the time.

YU: George, it wasn’t much they’d really could have done because there is no way that by sharing someone else’s data that they could have used that for targeting… the data was only available to the particular app that collected it.

They didn’t have a security or a privacy breach… Someone shared data that wasn’t even really usable, right? So, Facebook had to apologize for breach of trust, but there wasn’t a privacy issue. So, they are trying to apologize for something where there’s not a clear problem or issue to solve.

Dennis on CNN 31

Howell and I have discussed this several times on the air now. Here’s a video of another one of our segments.

Since that broadcast, Facebook has taken drastic action by removing data from the ads interface and rolling out a timeline for the removal of third party data from the platform.

Facebook is taking preemptive measures to get ahead of the regulators in Washington, as Zuckerberg goes to Capitol Hill.

Logan was just on CNN talking about what Facebook and its users can expect in coming weeks. We already know some of what’s coming.

Logan on CNN1

We’ve seen the specific action plan Facebook put in place to remove third-party targeting options. Here’s a note from our Facebook rep at Content Factory:

“Specifically, over the next six months, we will remove the ability to use Partner Categories, a targeting solution that enables third-party data providers to offer their targeting directly on Facebook. While leveraging third-party data is a common industry practice and we’ve put good protections in place, we believe this step will help improve people’s privacy on Facebook.

  • May 10: After this date, you will no longer be able to create or edit campaign using Partner Categories built on audiences from the UK, Germany, and France; however, they will be allowed to continue running until May 24.
  • May 25: We will no longer deliver to Partner Categories built on audiences from the UK, Germany, and France, and these targeting options will no longer be available for use on our platform. You will be notified to update any targeting containing impacted Partner Categories before this date.
  • June 30: Last day for creating new or editing existing campaigns using non-EU Partner Categories; they will be allowed to run until September 30.
  • October 1: All other Partner Categories will no longer be available as targeting options on our platform and we will stop delivering against these audiences. You will be notified to update your targeting by this date.”

Things are getting harder for us advertisers.

They are banning ad accounts left and right with no appeal process—their judgment is swift, and their ruling is final.

Meanwhile, we see ads like this on LinkedIn.

Snack Nation Ad1

If SnackNation were to try this on Facebook, they’d get shut down in a second.

While Facebook takes the heat, everyone else is quietly making ads on LinkedIn, Twitter, SnapChat, Quora, and other places that have crazy good targeting and hardly any oversight.

But the average Facebook user isn’t privy to this, and good luck trying to explain to the media with their pre-formed bias.

Unable to educate, Facebook must APPEAR compliant, so they removed most of the publicly visible targeting options, which they acknowledge weren’t used heavily anyway. It was just a few people making noise to the media on something that could happen, but in practice never did.

And all of this noise when, in reality, the data and targeting under the hood only grows more powerful.

The Facebook money-printing engine hums along just fine, with advertisers hooking up their business via the Facebook IV and pressing the vending machine style buttons for the business result they want.

Besides, it seems that everyone forgot they have to delete Instagram too.

Dennis Yu
Dennis Yu
Dennis Yu is co-author of the #1 best-selling book on Amazon in social media, The Definitive Guide to TikTok Ads.  He has spent a billion dollars on Facebook ads across his agencies and agencies he advises. Mr. Yu is the "million jobs" guy-- on a mission to create one million jobs via hands-on social media training, partnering with universities and professional organizations.You can find him quoted in major publications and on television such as CNN, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, NPR, and LA Times. Clients have included Nike, Red Bull, the Golden State Warriors, Ashley Furniture, Quiznos-- down to local service businesses like real estate agents and dentists. He's spoken at over 750 conferences in 20 countries, having flown over 6 million miles in the last 30 years to train up young adults and business owners. He speaks for free as long as the organization believes in the job-creation mission and covers business class travel.You can find him hiking tall mountains, eating chicken wings, and taking Kaqun oxygen baths-- likely in a city near you.