In late January, Facebook launched a PR initiative that, on its face, appeared intended to reframe in 2019 the issues that got away from them in 2018, AKA Facebook’s privacy offences that dominated the year since the Cambridge Analytica scandal became public. This week on Inside PR, Gini Dietrich, Martin Waxman and Joseph Thornley talk about this first phase of what by late February was unmistakably a concerted effort by Facebook to reframe the issues swirling around it.

Martin doesn’t buy Facebook’s argument that we are getting Facebook’s service for free? Not for a second. We’re paying — and the currency is our data. Gini argues that we are the product when it comes to social media. However, she accepts Facebook’s argument that they are not selling our data. Instead, she focuses on the need for each of us to make our own calculation about whether what we receive is a fair exchange for our attention and what Facebook learns about us. And Joe? Well he’s not buying Facebook’s arguments that they don’t sell our data. They do sell the intelligence and insight that comes from possessing our data. And, as far as he’s concerned that makes them “Data Launderers,” the digital equivalent of money launderers.

Martin picks up on this and says that we can see Facebook as not necessarily selling the data, but being the agent by which our data is used and obtains the value of using it. And they can do this because they are so big. Perhaps too big. And, says Martin, all you have to do is look at what Facebook is doing with WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram — rolling up the data each has about us. Different data from what we view as different platforms gives them an even more granular portrait of us that they can draw on to the benefit of advertisers. What of the trust we established with these platforms when they gave us the reassurance of remaining discrete and protecting us from being rolled into an even bigger data bank?

Gini brings it back to a pragmatic reality. Facebook has become so effective, so pervasive, so dominant, can an advertiser ignore them? And that leads us to accept their assertions of good intent.


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Our theme music was created by Damon de SzegheoRoger Dey is our announcer. Inside PR is produced by Joseph Thornley.

Creative Commons Licence
Data Laundering the Facebook Way – Inside PR 535 by Joseph Thornley, Gini Dietrich, Martin Waxman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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