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Changes to Digital Privacy Finally Taking Effect: What's Coming for Consumers (And Advertisers)

16 May 2019 Elizabeth McHugh

in Social Media, Data

In the wake of many data breaches and, of course, the Cambridge Analytica scandal, digital privacy is finally beginning to gain actionable momentum. After a profusion of chatter about the way forward and months of Facebook stock selloff, the digital behemoths are starting to offer consumers options regarding their online privacy. It’s probable that the likes of Google and Facebook felt motivated to act not only because of heightened user concern but also so as to get ahead of possible privacy legislation. Regardless, this month Google introduced an auto-delete function that will provide users the ability to delete old searches, location history, and other activity. Then, this week, Facebook announced that the “Clear History” tool will arrive in the coming months, over a year after it was first announced. This update from Facebook allows users to clear—but not delete—their browsing activity and off-line actions. Rather than disappearing entirely, the data instead becomes anonymous. So, what does this all mean for the world of digital advertising?


Marketers—who are often most in tune with the consequences of sharing data—reported that their personal social media usage declined from October of 2018 to March of 2019. In addition, over a third of those ad executives were “highly concerned” about the deleterious effects of using social media platforms personally. General users will likely be slower to adapt, but based on current research, we do expect consumers to take some action. Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, 45% of US internet users have cleared or disabled their cookies, while 44% remarked that they limited their information on social media. Only 14% have taken no action. At the same time, less than a third took the extra steps to change their default privacy settings, and many users ultimately stuck with social despite a “Delete Facebook” movement that formed following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Social platforms are still broadly appealing; ultimately, users will need to decide whether they are willing to give up on digital conveniences for increased protection. 


Facebook has written advertisers, saying that privacy concerns could be allayed and powerful analytics maintained after “Clear History” is released. Zafreen Zerilli, Stella Rising’s VP of Analytics, noted, “While it’s likely not possible for Facebook analytics to maintain its potency, our approach to data attribution has always been holistic. These changes stress the importance for brands to diversify their data and not solely rely on last-click attribution models.” Jenna Manula Linares, our Senior Director of Social Media, agreed, adding that owned data will be crucial for social media prospecting. “Custom and lookalike targeting on Facebook still performs for Stella Rising clients,” said Linares, “prospecting will now be more complex on the channel, and so the onus will be on brands to provide first party data to build audiences from.” Overall, we recommend that brands strengthen their owned data and be extremely transparent with consumers regarding the way in which it is used.

Stella Rising is the agency for rising star brands. Our team can help navigate your brand through data governance and the changes in digital privacy. Reach out to us to discuss driving digital growth, intelligently.

Social Media Data