Facebook and the Criminalization of Market Research

Facebook and the Criminalization of Market Research

Facebook and the Criminalization of Market Research

The British Parliament is currently interviewing former employees of Cambridge Analytica to determine if there was criminal wrongdoing in the development of Facebook apps to mine information for insurance companies and political candidates. And, so begins the criminalization of Market Research.

Ever since King Henry the VIII polled the British people to see if they preferred beheading, burning at the stake or hanging for heretics during the British reformation, market research has been important for government, politics, business and community. I kid, of course, Henry VIII was to busy jousting and loving. He left market research to one of his household personnel. But, you see my point.

Politico.eu posted an article regarding the Parliamentary testimony, “Cambridge Analytica created own quizzes to harvest Facebook data”. Wow, see my shocked face! From the article:

Cambridge Analytica created its own Facebook quizzes and questionnaires to collect reams of data on users using the social networking giant, according to a former senior official at the data mining company.

Brittany Kaiser, the former director of program development at Cambridge Analytica, told British lawmakers on Tuesday that the company, which is at the center of a broader Facebook data scandal, widely used such practices, including a “sex compass” quiz, to garner insight on people’s online habits.

For full disclosure, I worked in the market research division of Bristol Myers/Drackett in the early 1980’s. The market research group was called “Homemakers Institute”. Cue laughter. In the mid to late 1980’s, I was in Brand Management with a major soap company. I truly love market research. Also, I don’t know much about the interwebs or coding or the other magic that goes on in my devices.

Does the picture above look familiar? Every day we see quizzes, tests and surveys in our news feeds. “What would you look like as a Hollywood star?” “In what year will you marry?” “Should you live in the country or city?” “Which house is right for you?” How many of these have you taken?

I assumed when I took these quizzes that (a) they were silly and inaccurate and (b) that information was being collected from them. And, now begins the criminalization of market research.

Watch Mark Zuckerberg explain:

There is nothing “surveillance” about this. Think about when you used to go to the mall and there were middle-aged women asking you, “Do you want to take a survey?” Remember? Think about the internet as a huge mall. You can buy things. You can sit in the food court and talk with your friends and take quizzes in “Glamour” magazine. You can see a movie. You can take a survey. Or, you can say “No, thank you” and walk away. Aka, scroll, baby scroll.

If Whiz Kid Zuckerberg didn’t know that this information was being collated and sold as market research to politicians, businesses and local communities then he really did steal Facebook from the Winklevoss twins.

I am a firm believer in “Caveat Emptor” or buyer beware. In this case, user beware. The U.S. government is Hoovering up every bit of information about citizens that they can. I suspect the British government has parallel programs. For them to sit on their high horses about information gathering is typical political show.

Be a good consumer and choose wisely what information you share. Assume that every keystroke is telling someone something about you.

With all the information available out there it would be malpractice not to use it. Whether the benefit is a new playground in your community, new health insurance products to meet current needs, new meal deals at the Olive Garden or helping a political candidate zero in on her voters, it’s your choice to participate. Don’t let politicians criminalize market research.

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6 Comments
  • GWB says:

    Absolutely true, Toni.

    My complaint about FarceBook (besides complaining about all these other people giving up their info and making it thereby harder for the rest of us to stay out of it) was on its tracking you when you were off the FB site. All those sites with FB widgets check your computer for cookies and your FB info, then pull all that information together and add it to your FB data.
    (It’s not just FB that does that, btw. Google does it. It’s also one reason I block several ad sites at my firewall.)

    That’s less like the girl asking you to take a survey and more like her following you all over the mall, watching every store you look in the window, watching what you take off the rack and ponder, peeking through the curtain in the dressing room, and tracking every purchase you make – including, possibly, which card you use and whether you used a store affinity card.
    If that happened in RL, that person would end up with a bloody face out by the mall dumpster at some point. If they’re lucky the police would get called.

    • Toni Williams says:

      Perfectly within your rights. Call the police, though. I just got upset with all the congressweenies acting shocked. And, I really do love market research. Weird, huh?

  • George V says:

    One has to wonder if criminalization applies equally to all market research firms, hmmmm?

    I miss the market research my wife and I were occasionally called to participate in. A phone call finds out you are in the right demographic, then an invitation to an office where you are interviewed, participate in discussions, or even drive automobiles fitted with different features. At the end of the session the research firms give you a check for as much as $100.00. Now that’s market research I like! Now, sadly, I think we’re too old!

    • GWB says:

      Nowadays they get your opinion on YouGov, and give you 100 points (which 5,000 of will get you a $10 e-gift card).

    • Scott says:

      In my area, I still get emails from that kind of stuff George. Company is called “fieldwork” with your city afterwards…my son got $100 plus free food years back for watching trailers for the movie Avatar…

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