Rahul Vengalil shares his take on the recent Facebook data scandal, shedding light on how tools, brands, and agencies can contribute in achieving data security.
Ever wondered why the DND doesn’t work? Or why you get to see the ad of a rare product on Facebook, within 24hrs of you discussing that offline? How many times have vendors reached out to marketers on LinkedIn in with the message “6 million verified phone numbers for as low as INR 10000?” . Ever wondered how they got those 6million numbers? Inadvertently, everyone in the marketing-tech space is responsible for the data leakages. You can call it data breach, invasion of privacy, data vulnerability, etc. I call it plain stupidity & oversight.
Before getting into the technical aspect, let us understand how lax we are as companies & Individuals about our data. My colleague & friend, once did an interesting experiment to understand how his mobile number is being sourced, sold & resold. As an advertising & media professional, he used to meet clients on a regular basis. As part of the entry process into any company, he used to fill his phone number at the Gate as well as at the reception. What he did do was give an alternate number, which not a single friend or acquaintance of his ever had. Lo and behold, he started getting promotional calls on that particular number, which not a single soul had, within 3 months.
Data breaches have been common for a long time, not just in India, but globally as well. 9/10 users on LinkedIn were asked to change password couple of years back, same story with Twitter, 90% of the mail accounts on Yahoo were hacked & personal data leaked. Nobody really cared when one should have. There was no tangible impact on any of these on both the consumers as well as the brands. The one story that really got nasty though was Ashley Madison leak in 2015, when millions of adulterers’ data was hacked & leaked and the whole world went berserk. It impacted individuals directly and that’s the primary reason it was a big deal. Avid Media Life, the parent company finally settled two dozen lawsuits for $11.2 Million dollars.
The irony that I have found in the last 12 months is that it’s easier to get a brand’s customer data when compared to its marketing data.
Moving on to what is actually happening in the world of data, and how companies are often clueless on how the data is being used misused. Let us look at some use cases first
Also Read: 3 things about Facebook that will have a bigger impact on our lives than Cambridge Analytica scandal
As a marketing audit firm, our recommendation to companies and advertisers is to first understand the impact that data breach can have on your business. It is not tangible only until it surfaces. Once it does surface, all hell will break lose. Facebook lost over $100BN in 10 days, and that loss alone is than India’s biggest company Reliance’s market cap. The top activities that any company who is serious about customer data should do are:
- Understand the flow or handshake that happens to the data, both incoming & outgoing. This will help you in understanding all the participants who would be handling your customer data
- Create rules & guidelines specially for data, with every vendor that the advertiser directly or indirectly shares with
- Always encrypt or encode sensitive data while it is stored in server
- Check for vulnerability periodically, especially after any new builds
- Use a third party who understands the importance of data security to assist you in this endeavor