Even as Facebook’s trying to sell its audience on Portal, its new video interface, consumer doubts about the platform’s data privacy measures and marketers’ distrust of its ad claims are being exacerbated by recent lawsuits. The Facebook data breach that affected between 30 and 50 million users and the video metrics snafus may not dissuade advertisers from wanting to access Facebook’s 2 billion monthly active users, though.
On Wednesday, Wired reported that a lawsuit filed this week in federal court in California by advertisers claims that Facebook leaders knew about the inflated video view metrics a year before acknowledging the problem:
According to the complaint, which Facebook has dismissed as being "without merit," the company may have been alerted to the analytics error as early as 2015 by advertisers who reported seeing an unrealistic 100 percent average viewership rates on some videos. It was also around that time that many newsrooms across the country began laying off reporters, in what has become snarkily known as the "pivot to video."
Also filed in California, a class action lawsuit entering the books on Sept. 28 alleges Facebook is exposing users to identity theft because hackers employing the “view as” feature on Facebook profiles accessed vital information, The Verge reports.
Facebook’s Guy Rosen, VP of Product Management, writes in the Facebook Newsroom on Oct. 12:
“We now know that fewer people were impacted than we originally thought. Of the 50 million people whose access tokens we believed were affected, about 30 million actually had their tokens stolen. Here’s how it happened:
“First, the attackers already controlled a set of accounts, which were connected to Facebook friends. They used an automated technique to move from account to account so they could steal the access tokens of those friends, and for friends of those friends, and so on, totaling about 400,000 people. In the process, however, this technique automatically loaded those accounts’ Facebook profiles, mirroring what these 400,000 people would have seen when looking at their own profiles. That includes posts on their timelines, their lists of friends, Groups they are members of, and the names of recent Messenger conversations. Message content was not available to the attackers, with one exception. If a person in this group was a Page admin whose Page had received a message from someone on Facebook, the content of that message was available to the attackers.
“The attackers used a portion of these 400,000 people’s lists of friends to steal access tokens for about 30 million people. For 15 million people, attackers accessed two sets of information — name and contact details (phone number, email, or both, depending on what people had on their profiles). For 14 million people, the attackers accessed the same two sets of information, as well as other details people had on their profiles. This included username, gender, locale/language, relationship status, religion, hometown, self-reported current city, birthdate, device types used to access Facebook, education, work, the last 10 places they checked into or were tagged in, website, people or Pages they follow, and the 15 most recent searches. For 1 million people, the attackers did not access any information.”
Hackers are a different problem from the data privacy issue that landed Facebook CEO and Co-Founder Mark Zuckerberg in front of a congressional committee, though. Cambridge Analytica’s access to user data ultimately stemmed from Facebook selling it and that had users upset that Facebook sold their data to a company that used it to target individuals and influence their votes in the 2016 presidential election. This, perhaps, isn’t the greatest way to elicit consumer trust just before trying to sell a video tool that pans and zooms to follow Facebook users as they talk to friends and family through Facebook Portal, shipping in November.
The data privacy concerns aren’t Facebook’s only problem, though. Advertisers are less than pleased by the video view metrics being inflated “by up to 900 percent,” the Mercury News reports on Oct. 16.
But this couples with cases brought to Facebook’s home turf in California by advertisers upset that Facebook touted metropolitan audiences reach exceeding Census figures — sometimes by more than twice as much, per an August 2018 case; and 25 million more national users than there are U.S. residents, also per Census data, in a September 2017 filing.
Despite all of that, Facebook notes that there were “1.47 billion daily active users on Facebook, on average, for June 2018,” and we reported that marketers are buying many ads on the platform this holiday season.
What do you think, marketers?
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Related story: Facebook Portal Enters the Voice Interface Market