Reporters and readers have been surprised to learn about the ability to gather personal data on the friends of people who install a Facebook app, the conversion of a personality quiz into a source of political data, the idea that you can target marketing messages based on individual psychographic profiles, and the surreptitious collection of data under the guise of academic research, later used for political purposes. But there is one group of people who are mostly unsurprised by these revelations: the market researchers and digital marketers who have known about (and in many cases, used) these tactics for years.
… The tactic of collecting friend data, which has been featured prominently in the Cambridge Analytica coverage, was a well-known way of turning a handful of app users into a goldmine.
…Pages and apps like this might have seemed innocent to the average Facebook user, but people in the marketing community were hardly deceived.
“It was pretty common knowledge among people who understood the internet that if you were taking a quiz to find out what kind of cheese you are, somebody on the other end is very interested in getting that data,” says Susanne Yada, a Facebook ad strategist.
…“We did this project for the Hard Rock Cafe Casino in Las Vegas,” Hodder told me. “They wanted to put wands in the ceiling to collect the IMEI [identification] numbers of every phone that went by, map everywhere they went in the casino or on the property, and map them in the hallways up to their rooms. And then they could do a reverse lookup on IMEI numbers because there are companies that aggregate IMEI numbers, and as soon as they figured out who the person was, they could send them offers, text them offers, and the people had not opted in. So they were basically just intercepting your phone, and figuring out how to send messages to you in one form or another.”
…The outrage now directed at Cambridge Analytica and Facebook suggests there might be an appetite for an online ecosystem based on a different compact between consumers, platforms and advertisers. But we won’t build that ecosystem by pretending that this is a matter of a few bad actors. It’s time for us to face up to what online marketers and researchers have known for more than a decade: the contemporary Internet runs on the exploitation of user data, and that fact won’t change until consumers, regulators and businesses commit to a radically different model.
It surprises me that is not more discussion of the once ubiquitous fb game apps that were formulated to make sending “invitations” and “gifts” something that unlocked more access to the game.
…Or the facebook integration with news media, etc. sites.