The recently revealed Facebook data “breach” that allowed Cambridge Analytica to get access to millions of users’ worth of Facebook data has been greeted as a shocking scandal. Reporters and readers have been surprised to learn about the ability to gather personal data on the friends of people who install a Facebook app, the conversion of a personality quiz into a source of political data, the idea that you can target marketing messages based on individual psychographic profiles, and the surreptitious collection of data under the guise of academic research, later used for political purposes. But there is one group of people who are mostly unsurprised by these revelations: the market researchers and digital marketers who have known about (and in many cases, used) these tactics for years. I’m one of them.
Back when the Cambridge Analytica data was getting collected by an enterprising academic, I was the vice president of social media for Vision Critical, a customer intelligence software company that powers customer feedback for more than a third of the Fortune 100 companies. Our enterprise clients wanted to know how social media data could complement the insights they were getting from their customer surveys, and it was my job to come up with a way of integrating social media data with survey data.