Is Facebook listening to you?


The theme of Fondia’s sold out PrivacyAcademy event was ‘marketing in the face of privacy’. Quru’s Mirkka Tajakka visited Fondia to talk about Facebook’s analytics and targeted advertising, and our data protection lawyers explained how personal data can be used responsibly through good planning and communication.

Data protection related work did not end on 25 May 2018; it should be constantly monitored and updated. A functional privacy strategy is simple, and it should be clear already looking at the website of the company. The transparency of the processing i.e. information on the personal data is essential. This should also be taken into account in marketing and related activities such as profiling, automated decision making, and cookies, of which we wrote about in October.

Facebook analytics

Many people will have experienced speaking out loud about a certain topic and soon after seeing products or services related to that topic being promoted to you on Facebook. Tajakka said that Facebook is not listening to you because it does not have to – it knows enough without. This sparked a lot of comments and many people thought it is too big of a coincidence that when you talk to a friend out loud about baking, you will see an advert for rolling pins on Facebook 15 minutes later. Facebook has publicly stated that it does not listen to its users. Of course, it is up to everyone whether they choose to trust Zuckerberg’s statements or not.

How did it know…?

Facebook collects a lot of data about each of its users e.g. through their Facebook profiles. Many of the users have provided more data in their profiles than they realize. Users can already be profiled based on basic data such as age, gender, and location. Most people also like content that they find interesting and browse the Facebook pages of companies, artists or even dog breeds. These make it easy to determine what the user likes. When data about your locations, shopping and friends and their browsing is added to this data, Facebook knows you better than you do.

In addition, Facebook may collect limited data through your browsing history when cookies are allowed. Almost all companies have a Facebook tracking code installed on their websites, which sends data about page views to the advertiser’s Facebook account. It’s no coincidence that when you browse travel companies’ websites you will be targeted with travel-related advertising on Facebook.

Facebook’s legal issues

Facebook has been in the headlines lately due to some legal cases. The European Court of Justice first ruled that national courts in the EU countries can order online services such as Facebook to remove defamatory content or hate speech worldwide. In another decision, which we wrote about in August, the Court of Justice ruled that a website administrator was a joint controller with Facebook and thus also responsible for the processing of data. If a website has a Facebook like button, special attention must be paid to ensure that the consent and the information provided are sufficient.

Pay attention to privacy!

The GDPR is about communication and planning, not just mandatory formal documents. As marketing and tools evolve, the processing and utilization of personal data diversifies and therefore the GDPR must be taken into account before anything new is done. How have you considered the use of Facebook or other analytics services in your marketing?

Our data protection team considers solutions to concrete issues raised by our clients on a weekly basis. If something concerns you in your marketing or privacy activities, please do not hesitate to contact us. Just drop us a message.