On April 15, HasOffers and Kontagent had to deal with more than just paying taxes: They were forced to drop support for Facebook mobile ad tracking due to violations of policy for retaining too much user data. This was a surprise to many in the industry when it was first announced, because Facebook depends on its mobile measurement partners to help measure the effectiveness of its mobile ads. Advertisers rely on these mobile tracking solutions because they offer cross-platform products that support Google, Apple iAds, and Millennial Media, as well as Facebook.
This isn’t the first time companies like HasOffers have gotten in trouble with Facebook for data-retention issues, and it probably won’t be the last. Facebook will always consider its data sacred and will protect it for as long as possible. Keeping user-level data private allows users to trust Facebook and protects its key differentiator in the advertising market. In fact, this social data is what Google, Apple, and Millennial Media cannot compete against. Instead, those players are forced to acquire demographic data — essentially assumptions, rather than explicitly shared information — from third parties such as Acxiom, Nielsen, and Datalogix.
The demographic data Facebook offers is highly valuable to most advertisers. When paired with behavioral data like purchase history, it can form the basis for a model of who the advertisers’ customers are going to be in the foreseeable future. This is something that every major advertising company has embraced and is the core reason why so many players in the digital advertising space are investing much of their research and development efforts around demographic data collection to pair with behavioral data.
Facebook’s efforts in protecting user data are rightfully placed, as it possesses the only real source of accurate user demographic data on the Web today. Anybody else’s attempts amount to nothing more than educated assumptions at the user level. Conversely, companies like HasOffers hold an inherently conflicting interest with companies like Facebook. They are incentivized to gobble up as much data as they can at the most granular levels.
Ultimately, the winner in this battle should be the player who is aligned with the public’s interests. If the public decides that they do not trust a company with their data, they’ll stop volunteering it. This is the reason we cannot rely on companies like HasOffers – no one consciously decided to share their data directly with them (outside of a hidden agreement in the form of small print).
In an ideal scenario, Facebook is the master of your data across every platform. It owns the user-level data you share with your friends and protects it from others trying to access it while sharing just enough of it — in an aggregated, privacy-conscientious manner — so that advertising can provide the average Internet user with an enhanced experience across the Web.
Facebook can act as the data platform. It can be the conversion tracking platform on the Web and mobile, while serving as a layer that both offers and protects your data. It is the only company with incentive to be required to do both of these things in order to be successful. As a result, it is the only company well-positioned to execute in the data provision and tracking world in such a way that benefits the advertiser, publisher, and user.
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