Last month, Facebook confirmed that when a user enters a phone number to protect his account via a two-factor authentication, the company uses these numbers for the purpose of targeting ads.
Surprised that this was even a thing, Marketing Land contacted other popular social media platforms to find out if it was a common practice. In the end, this is not the case.
The Backstory. Last month, researchers at Northeastern University discovered that Facebook was collecting phone numbers users had entered to protect their accounts via two-factor authentication (2FA) and using these numbers to target their ads.
Using Facebook's Custom Audience tool, researchers discovered they were able to handle advertising campaigns targeting numbers that they did not directly authorize Facebook to use for targeting purposes advertising. Asked about the unrelenting practice of using the numbers entered in 2FA for ad targeting tactics last month, a Facebook spokesperson sent the following comment:
"We are certain with the people that we use the information they provide to provide a more personalized experience, including more relevant ad serving. So, when someone adds a phone number to his account, for example when registering, his profile or when registering for two-factor authentication, we use this information for the same purpose. "
However, when a user performs the two-factor authentication configuration procedure in his security settings on the Web site, no message indicates that his number used for 2FA will also be used to serve more relevant ads.
Since last month, Marketing Land has contacted Facebook to confirm that it was still using 2FA numbers to target ads on users and to specify where – on its app or website – Facebook clearly states that the numbers entered for 2FA could be used for advertising targeting purposes.
In response, a Facebook spokesman directed us to a "About Facebook Ads" page and the company's "Data Processing Policy" page, which explains how the phone number of the company's Facebook page is "What's New?" a user can be used to provide them with more relevant ads. A specific language that allows users to know that numbers entered for 2FA will be used for ad targeting purposes. The Facebook spokesperson said the company was looking at how she was using the contact information for ads and how she was talking to people about it. (Facebook users can also enable two-factor authentication without having to download a phone number.)
So, do any other platforms use numbers assigned to 2FA to target their ads? The short answer: no. Marketing Land contacted Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Reddit. All confirmed that they did not use the phone numbers entered for two-factor authentication to target ads. Reddit does not even use phone numbers for ad targeting. (Marketing Land also contacted Apple, but did not receive an answer.)
Do advertisers care? Facebook's use of phone numbers entered for two-factor authentication to target ads is an additional entry into the long list of methods used by the company to test user trust. In March, Facebook's biggest public relations crisis to date was confirmed when Cambridge Analytica used an app to leverage user data, prompting the company to completely restructure its auditing and reporting system. approval of applications. Since then, many similar articles have been reported on Facebook's privacy issues and ad targeting strategies.
But does Facebook's habit of playing with user data have an impact on whether advertisers spend money on the platform or not? The company's latest earnings report indicated dull advertising revenue and a growth in the number of users on the Facebook platform. Meanwhile, Facebook's Instagram app has reached one billion users this year and Instagram's advertising revenue is growing. Some claim that the results that advertisers continue to experience on Facebook and Instagram outweigh any ethical arguments about how the company handles user information.
Greg Cappello, senior vice president of marketing for mobile advertising company Kargo, says the industry sees two variables at play here.
"Consumers are much more aware of the potential disadvantages of using their personal information on social platforms, even as traditional brands lose consumers to their direct competitors who build their brands through trust. and transparency. "
Cappello thinks that there seems to be a "do not ask, do not say" mindset for advertisers who want to have the most granular consumer data available at the cost of limited transparency about how to collect this data .
"Until the industry agrees on the best way to self-regulate, on the visibility and security of brands, we will likely continue to see this kind of challenges for publishers and platforms around user data, "says Cappello.
FWIW. As long as Facebook can produce results for advertisers, the evidence indicates that the company's advertising revenue remains intact, regardless of how it collects data to target ads to users. Despite stagnant results in the second quarter, Facebook remains the leading digital advertising platform.
In May, the IAB announced that, according to Pivotal Research data, Google and Facebook held 70% of digital advertising revenue in the United States, with Facebook holding the bulk of advertising spend on social media. This month, eMarketer predicted that Facebook and Instagram's video advertising spend would reach $ 6.81 billion this year. Facebook will control 87% of video advertising spend on social media sites in the United States.
The fact that the company uses 2FA information for advertising purposes only reinforces their sense of ad targeting – keeping advertisers aligned to reap the benefits.
About the author
Amy Gesenhues is Third Door Media's general assignment reporter. It covers the latest news and updates for Marketing Land and Search Engine Land. From 2009 to 2012, she was an award-winning columnist for several dailies from New York to Texas. With over ten years of experience in marketing management, she has contributed to a variety of traditional and online publications, including MarketingProfs.com, SoftwareCEO.com and Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. Read more articles from Amy.