“We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of profiles. And built models to exploit that and target their inner demons.”
(Christopher Wylie — source)
Igniting the Cambridge Analytica Scandal — Exposing Facebook’s Role in Influencing Voters
In 2013, Christopher Wylie, aimed for a Ph.D. in predicting fashion trends at the University of the Arts London. With a background in micro-targeting from his Bachelor specializing in technology, media, and IP law, the Canadian micro-data specialist, began working as a contractor at SCL Elections, later renamed as Cambridge Analytica. Three years later he was the one that provided the cache files that exposed and ignited the entire Facebook scandal, having rippling effects onto how users saw social media and data safety.
“The data analytics firm that worked with Donald Trump’s election team and the winning Brexit campaign harvested millions of Facebook profiles of US voters, in one of the tech giant’s biggest ever data breaches, and used them to build a powerful software program to predict and influence choices at the ballot box.” (source — The Guardian, 17 March 2018)
One year later, waiting for the social network to make amends and work on user privacy, the public is still looking to seeing any major change happen. Meanwhile, Facebook wants to consolidate its own entity with Instagram and WhatsApp, ensuring corporate stability, but motivating that it will help with streamlining the privacy modifications they are expected to do. This adds even more fuel to lack of confidence from the public, and to movements like #BreakUpBigTech. This is what The Guardian had to say earlier this year:
“That ‘Break Up Big Tech’ would be a 2020 campaign slogan was unimaginable just two years ago. […] And yet, here we are. The Cambridge Analytica revelations may not have changed Facebook, but they did change us. Our eyes are now open. The question is what we will do. “— (source)
The aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica prompted the need to search for solutions that offer a more secure and transparent data management used in any marketing or campaign. People began looking into the use of blockchain technology. Being a decentralized data ledger that removes any intermediary, allowing for direct transactions between two or more parties involved in a commercial connection, blockchain proves to be a technology that can change the entire marketing industry. Below we discuss three examples.
Lead Generation for Marketing Campaigns
Research data is used as a foundation for building campaigns aimed at targeting consumption patterns and psychographic characteristics of the people who use or interact with brands. Most of the ads and content revolving around a product, cause or political candidate result from market research. And in the digital era, the majority of this data comes from social media.
The current data mining process is mostly benefitting brands and companies, leaving consumers with barely anything other than having access to enhanced products, ideas, and political leaders aiming to make their lives better. But individuals now can have control and even benefits from providing their data.
Blockchain can change digital marketing by removing companies’ abilities to extract data from customers without also offering reimbursement for the value they provide brands. It’s an entirely new way of viewing advertising. It involves trading the value of online attention, not just the trading of space for potential ad sales. The digital marketing industry may not be pleased about this situation, but it’s a necessary step towards consumer protection.
Combating Fraud in the Advertising Space
In the current context, brands are directly contacting individuals who amassed a large following on social media in order to promote their offering and through those people having access to their already engaged audiences. Known as Influencer Marketing, this type of campaign implies the existence of a commercial agreement in the form of a contract between the influencer and the advertising brand. This is also a very fertile ground for fraud and conning.
Another important point looks at pay-per-click ad campaigns, and how ad agencies are spending the budgets the brands are investing in campaigns in order to reach the target market agreed-upon in the campaign brief. The “supply chain” leading from the brand, going through agencies, reaching consumers and then offering data back to the brand can be rigged, frauded.
Blockchain can create a trusted and verified chain from the brand budget to the end-user. The decentralized technology has the ability to change how marketers collect and use data, how they address customers and how they manage ads. All leading to a more transparent and cost-effective process.
Reaching back to the influencer-brand situation, blockchain can allow users to share and connect without the traditional social media surveillance. They could monetize viral content taking into account that only the best quality, most popular content will go up in audiences’ preferences. This further allows content creators and curators to benefit directly from the value they generate online. Because blockchain transactions are decentralized, marketers have to go right to the consumers for data collection. In order to get ahold of the needed data, marketers will have to pay or incentivize in some other way consumers for their data. This is where utility tokens can prove useful, digitalizing the popularity and shareability of content creators and followers.
Although higher costs may put a strain on advertising budgets, it is likely the ROI of the campaigns created with the help of this personalized data will be higher. This way, marketers have accurate data that came right from their consumers. Followers that give the brand their data are likely already interested in the brand. This makes these leads more prone to convert when the campaign is over, becoming a client. All-in-all, marketers will gather far better leads using blockchain technology for promotional purposes.
Ensuring More Transparency for Consumers
The Cambridge Analytica scandal revolved around issues of trust and creating transparent processes for promoting crucial decision-making campaigns using consumer data. The invasion of privacy asked for building the trust back.
Using blockchain technology, companies can solve the transparency and high level of ad fraud problems. The decentralized platform provides end-to-end transparency for all data, which does not exist in the traditional ad space today. Consumers will know who has their data and how those businesses got it. Marketers will have access to more data to run campaigns. Although they may have to pay to incentivize data collection, the information will be real and highly usable in campaigns.
The marketing industry is seemingly just beginning to adopt blockchain technology, but the possibilities and implications are endless.
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