Cambridge Analytica

By Yuval Ben-Itzhak, CEO of Socialbakers

Many believe that the Cambridge Analytica story changed the world. It focused our minds on the topic of data privacy and user controls, and called into question the way we engaged with the social media platforms that had become such a big part of our daily lives.

Two years on and so much has changed. We see governments around the world wrestling with how best to regulate social media – but it’s the platforms themselves who are coming out with bold, meaningful steps to regulate and make social media safer, less harmful, and more transparent.

Back in 2019 Mark Zuckerberg laid out his plans for how Facebook would be reconstructed around privacy and transparency. Since then it has added greater transparency around how targeted ads work. This has given users more details about why they are seeing an ad, how it is linked to an agency or data broker, and how to opt out of interest-based ad campaigns from businesses that have their information.

While some of these steps might feel minor, they do serve an important purpose: to give users greater understanding of why they are being targeted by certain ads and, most importantly, to give them more control over their data.

We’ve also seen Google announcing plans to eliminate 3rd party cookies by 2020, with Firefox and Apple following suit. This marks a huge change in the way advertisers can make use of user data to retarget them with ads. Twitter also launched its Privacy Centre last year, in an effort to be more transparent about the platform’s approach to the privacy of user data. Over the last two years there has been a sea change in the way the social media platforms treat user data. But there’s still a way to go.

Facebook may still be embroiled in legal battles with regulators across several countries as a result of Cambridge Analytica, but the last two years have certainly brought both greater understanding and awareness of data privacy to users – and greater accountability to the platforms for the way in which they use that data. Greater awareness and accountability for private data and how it is used is a step in the right direction – and we will see social media platforms working even harder to put control into the hands of users in the coming years.