Cambridge Analytica, Data Breaches and a Lack of Awareness

Cambridge Analytica, Data Breaches and a Lack of Awareness

Something has really surprised me over these past weeks. The immediate reaction to the Cambridge Analytica scandal has been to #DeleteFacebook because of course there has to be a hashtag to represent the movement. I’ve seen a number of online acquaintances defiantly proclaim their intention to leave the platform.

None of this surprises me, as a swift and quickly forgotten knee-jerk reaction is always the response of the internet to any uproar and as fast as it arrives, it soon disappears. Have a look at the sharp rise of the search term “delete facebook” on Google Trends.


I get that this is about the breach of trust, 3rd party applications running rampant and manipulation, but it highlighted something that I hear all too often as I speak to people. What really blindsided me is the seeming unawareness that your data, once online, becomes a commodity. Always remember, if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.

These companies aren’t providing you with a fun place to share memes and promote your business out of the goodness of their heart. It is a data machine, and if you’ve ever posted an ad on Facebook, you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see the level of targeting you can access. You know all those products and shows that you’ve liked, the job title you’ve proudly entered? Your age, location interests, recreation, conversations, jokes, marital status, private chat… all of that data is used to build a profile to deliver advertising.

It continues to surprise me, as not only should this be common knowledge, greater education is required and understanding it. If you use Google Chrome everything you do is being tracked, to build your profile to help deliver their AdWords PPC product. It regularly surprises me that people often only have a baseline awareness of the targeted marketing going on around them. An example; after you search for “flights to Europe” you’re suddenly bombarded everywhere you go with advertising.

All of this is happening and whether you like it or not, it’s here to stay. You can fight it and attempt to run away, but if you own a smartphone, you’re out of luck. The geo-targeting model is sharply on the rise and as the location-based targeting on phones improves and the real-time data collection has really gained traction. I now get alerts from Google to rate the places I have recently visited and I’m sure you’ve had a similar experience. This is all part of the next phase of advertising and customer trust.

The opportunity here should be your focus. This scale of data collection is unlike anything we’ve ever seen. I come from a time when working in marketing, you’d put alternate phone numbers in press ads to gauge the effectiveness. I can’t tell you how excited I am to have this level of detail at my fingertips.

During a conversation with another business owner recently who gets leads from their website, I asked them about their Google Analytics, their response was “oh yeah, I think I’ve got that”. If you’re not using this extraordinary data to your advantage, then you are really missing out. Not just for advertising purposes, but to build a better product. I am forever A/B testing our sites and those of our customers, I look to the data for answers. 100 percent bounce rate on a page? Then you need to improve the experience, change the information, give an option to move through, enhance the experience, give more to the customer. Don’t know what a bounce rate is? The answer is at your fingertips and it’s pretty important.

There is so much to be gained by looking deeper into the capture and management of data to better educate yourself and there are tools available for free to help you do this. As you could imagine, we’ve taken it one step further and we have a reporting tool that captures everything in the one place. Rankings, analytics, business listings, AdWords, Instagram, page views, bounce rates – every single bit of relevant data that helps you to make informed, tactical decisions.

Don’t be surprised by the collection and storage of data, educate yourself about it. Choose what you share and even more importantly, learn how to make it work to your advantage.

Scott Nelson is a Director of Brisbane SEO, an avid technology enthusiast and motorsport far. You can get in touch via

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