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What PR Agencies Need to Know About Facebook’s New Restrictions Before They Handle Their Clients’ Data

What PR Agencies Need to Know About Facebook’s New Restrictions Before They Handle Their Clients’ Data

With the encounter of its Russia scandal and exposure of the Cambridge Analytica mining, Facebook has been going through heavy changes in their privacy practices.  As so many changes are being made, marketers need to be aware that some tools are being discontinued and tight data restrictions will change the way public relations and marketing firms may have initially handled their clients’ data. For an in-depth description of all the new policies and restrictions, read Michael Lasky’s PRWeek article, “Facebook Policy Change Introduces New Risks for PR Firms,” or for a quick summary, see a brief breakdown of all the new policies below.

  • How Facebook leverages outside data
    • According to Facebook analytics, 2 billion people use the platform every month. Facebook gathers users’ profile information such as user’s age, gender and location as data. Marketers love Facebook due to the fact that this type of data offers an insight into user behavior and a way to target users. In 2013, Facebook had introduced the partner categories program that made data available from third-party vendors such as Acxiom, Oracle Data Cloud and more. These datasets allowed marketers to create specific segments based on users’ offline behavior. However, Facebook has recently announced that it would be ending the partner categories program, effectively ending the use of third-party data on Facebook.
  • Facebook’s new first-party data policies
    • With partner categories no longer available, marketers began collecting their own data from their customers. Facebook’s custom audience program allowed advertisers to leverage data that they collect from their customers which then Facebook would match with its own user data through a process known as “hashing,” allowing marketers to target potential customers or their own customers on Facebook. However, Facebook has not updated the terms to the custom audience program which requires all agencies and marketers to agree to these four conditions:
      • Marketers and agencies must represent that they have “all necessary rights and permissions” to provide the data
      • Marketers and agency must represent and agree that the data is offered “in compliance with all applicable laws, regulations and industry guidelines
      • Marketers are forbidden from uploading data about any individual who has chosen to opt out of having their data used
      • Any party providing data on behalf of the marketers must “represent and warrant that it has the authority as an agent to the advertiser to disclose and use such data on their behalf and will bind the advertiser to these terms”

Although many of these were already a requirement, after the issue with Cambridge Analytica, Facebook has become more up-front about these policies and expected to introduce even more robust requirements in the future.

  • The bottom line for PR firms
    • What this all means for agencies is that great precautions must be taken before agreeing to take over a client’s account on Facebook. Many times, an agency will usually collect the data that is given by the client from their customer records, which means that the agency needs to ensure that they have the right to enter into user agreements of this type on behalf of their clients. This can be seen as beneficial for agencies since it puts a large amount of regal responsibility onto the client. However, PR firms need to make sure they were specifically given permission to do so by the client through an agency-client agreement or in a standalone agreement. A PR firm that fails to get such permission runs the risk of shouldering 100% of the legal risk without any way to verify whether it complies in the first place.

User data should never be overlooked or abused when being used and the policies and regulations Facebook has implemented will only continue to grow. As a PR agency or marketer, it is crucial to always consult legal counsel before leveraging user data on the internet.