Social networking giant Facebook is joining forces with big data company DataSift to roll out a new tool for marketers called Topic Data. The tool will enable brands and advertisers to gain insights from real-time user data while protecting the identity of individuals by aggregating and anonymizing results to provide insights, the companies said on Tuesday.
We reached out to Facebook for more information about the initiative, and a spokesperson for the company told us that the company will be aggregating real-time data for DataSift to analyze. "We’re looking at posts as well as the number of times those posts are likes, shared or commented on," he said.
Multiple Privacy Safeguards
Given some of Facebook's issues with privacy in the past, it is not surprising that the social media network is being very careful to lay out the privacy protections in place for this new venture. The Facebook spokesperson stressed that only aggregate, anonymous data would be provided to DataSift.
"DataSift doesn’t need to take steps to ensure the anonymity of the data, since we (Facebook) anonymize and aggregate it before it’s shared with DataSift," he said.
Among the steps the two companies are taking to protect consumer privacy are:
- Removing all user identity before analyzing any data
- Ensuring that all data generated by Facebook users (posts, likes, etc.) remains on Facebook servers; only aggregate data will be handed over to DataSift
- Requiring that before aggregate data is reported to DataSift, the number of individuals in the aggregated data must be greater than 100 (which minimizes the risk that the information can be disaggregated to identify a particular individual)
- Deleting aggregated data after 30 days
Marketers who post queries of Facebook data through DataSift will not be able to see the actual content that users post. Facebook users do need to be aware, however, that when Facebook is aggregating information for DataSift and its customers, it will not distinguish between posts that are public and those that are marked private.
Thus, even if a consumer has the tightest possible privacy restrictions, if her or she posts a status update that talks about a current movie, that post could still be part of an aggregate data set if the studio is interested in finding out how many Facebook users are currently discussing the film.
Enormous Potential Benefit to Brands
That type of information could be enormously useful for companies that are trying to assess how best to allocate advertising dollars when new products are released, or when something happens that could affect a brand in a positive or negative fashion.
Much of the potential benefit stems from the vast amount of information created on Facebook at any given moment. For now, DataSift, which describes itself as "[empowering] organizations to harness the power of human data in real-time," will have the exclusive ability to tap into this huge supply of data and assist marketers in finding ways to use it efficiently.
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Posted: 2015-03-11 @ 12:05pm PT
Enormous potential benefit to brands, enormous potential drawback for consumers, even if anonymized. Another reason to stay clear of Facebook.