Thoughts on Facebook…

 By: Mark Verone | April 11, 2018

For the record, my data was not breached by a 3rd party. I am not one of the 87MM in the Cambridge Analytica / Facebook debacle. I use social media but lock my security settings down and I avoid use of 3rd party games or applications tied to Facebook’s platform. I also use the ad preferences settings in Facebook to control what types of ads I will see. However, I am not your average consumer. I understand and try to control how my data is being used because advertising, data management and ad targeting has been a big part of my career. I have been using consumer data for over twenty years to create targeted advertising campaigns. First, with traditional direct marketing (telemarketing and direct mail). Later shifting to digital advertising where the same basic targeting logic exists with direct marketing databases but now we have the ability to target advertising to consumers in real-time based on behavioral markers, personal choice and even purchase history. Marketers have a treasure trove of data and targeting options and quite frankly we have been a little careless. Some marketers and companies do a great job self-regulating but theres a lot of bad actors out there violating consumer privacy and that is dangerous. One thing that is common between the good guys and the bad actors is a lack of TRANSPARENCY to the consumer of how their data will be used. Transparency is problem that is going to drive consumer data privacy legislation.

We are getting closer to GDPR-like legislation in the United States. Not familiar with GDPR? Living under a rock or in a cave? If you collect any consumer information, you have until May 25th to comply regardless of where your company operates. What? I am a U.S. based company that sells stuff on my website…why does some EU law apply to me? GDPR protects EU citizens and if an EU citizens buys stuff on your website, you now have an obligation to follow GDPR or you need to not selling to that EU citizen or block EU citizens. GDPR is wide-sweeping and could be VERY costly to small to mid-size companies who my collect information from EU citizens. After watching Mark Zuckerberg being grilled by our politicians for the past two days, I fear that the U.S. is on the same path to government regulation. More information on GDPR here:

The problem is not 100% Facebook’s fault – it’s the level of transparency with 3rd party apps in how much data you are sharing when you consent to use those apps. Most consumers have NO clue how their data is being used, how to opt in or out or decide what is shared and what isn’t. Remember all of these services are FREE and the only way they make money is from advertising and 3rd party partnerships. Facebook is the tip of the iceberg or perhaps the gash in the side of the titanic caused by the iceberg. We are getting closer to GDPR-like legislation in the United States because of data breaches and miscommunication of how consumer data is being used.

Have a loyalty card for a store? They know EVERYTHING purchased and can match that data with other data and link it back to Facebook data. Do you use Apple Pay or Google Pay? Credit Card systems and your bank have every single transaction of every item that a consumer has purchased. That information is being categorized to determine past purchase history as way to refine ad targeting. Imagine the targeting possibilities – they are endless! This is not new. Direct Marketing is just more sophisticated than before and real-time signals can be used to influence consumer decisions. Product registrations were a great way to build personal information databases for better targeting of products and service. Survey data, Contest registration and magazine subscriptions were another way to gauge household interest.

These hearings feel like a witch hunt. Watching old gas bag politicians regurgitate canned questions using technology jargon written by uninformed staffers is hilarious and dangerous. The politicians were briefed and still struggle with the topic. How are consumers expected to understand how their information is being used? The key for Facebook and all others who leverage consumer data is transparency.

From the Republican view: This is partly about a censorship of conservative views from a left leaning tech industry and trying to prevent over regulation of business. The Republicans applaud Facebook’s success but are concerned that free speech is being suppressed.

From the Democratic view: This comes across as a witch hunt for how Facebooks was used to steal the election and finding ways of adding more legislation and regulatory tactics and oversight. It’s mixture of consumer privacy concerns and a felling that Facebook influenced the election. There is also shared concern with the Republicans about censorship and ad targeting by race.

From the Consumer view: QUESTIONS: What the hell are they talking about? Should I delete my Facebook account? What data do they have? Did the Russian’s hack my facebook and force me to vote for someone else? Why did Facebook share my data without my consent?

Ultimately ALL companies that offer FREE ad supported services need to do a better job with transparency of how consumer data is being used beyond the EULA, TOU and Privacy Policy. NO ONE is reading these detailed legal documents. While pleading ignorance is not a defense, consumers should not be expected to hire an attorney to interpret these documents. If not, we will see strict legislation like GDPR in the US and this will have a negative impact on our ability to offer free services supported by targeted advertising.


Mark Verone is a marketing operations leader who has applied his expertise to travel ecommerce, interactive and traditional media. Mark has over 20 years of professional marketing operations and management experience including client service, revenue generation, advertising operations and in-flight entertainment.  The views and opinions expressed are mine and not necessarily the views of my employer, Gogo, Inc. I am not a spokesperson for Gogo and Gogo does not endorse any material, content and/or links nor do they assume any liability for my actions. More information about Mark at:

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