Life with Moxie: The Facebook data breach we created

Lee Herald Favicon 16Facebook is used by 1.15 billion users daily, roughly 2.13 billion are on it at least monthly – a 23 percent increase year over year — it’s not going anywhere.

It can be a wonderful way to stay connected with friends and family, watch the children of our friends grow up, grieve losses together, share accomplishments, recipes and pet photos, offering and requesting support during the rough patches, and so much more.

We are also declaring our disgust with people and groups, our hatred, distain, intolerance, vanity and arrogance. Many scream into the void, believing they are swaying public opinion by telling others how misinformed they are.

Not coincidentally, all of these things listed that we are declaring, liking, sharing, are data points. Data points collected and used to target ads: how Facebook makes money.

The Facebook breach has created a new and unique conversation, reflective of where we are and continuing to head as a society. iIt’s been mind-bending for me to try and understand at many levels. Not because it’s confusing, or technical –  it’s not.

But because the owner of the issue is not taking responsibility for it and the data that was “breached” wasn’t credit cards, social security numbers or passwords. It was preferences, ones that we each knowingly and proactively declared on a free public platform.

To be clear, this wasn’t a hack, no one stole our data. Someone collected it through very common means that are allowed, that we have been made aware of, and that we can control.

The issue happened when the company that legally collected it, then turned around and sold it for commercial use.

When you understand even the superficial details of what actually happened, it’s hard to place blame with Facebook. Facebook has strict rules about the sale of collected data, however it has been clear and forthright since the begin that it has been collecting our data — that we are willingly providing — and that data is readily available to be used by those who pay to access it.

So, what actually went down on Facebook? How was the data collected? Short answer: we gave it to them. Remember, on Facebook, your name, profile picture, cover photo, gender, networks, username and user ID are always publicly available to both people and apps. We gave it to them in a Facebook app, in this case a quiz created by a guy named Kogan that worked with Cambridge Analytica, and then Cambridge Analytica took the collected data and sold it. Facebook prohibited the selling of data collected on Facebook, but Cambridge Analytica sold the data anyway.

The acceptance of the terms of the quiz allow them to collect data from not only the people that took the quiz, but also the Facebook friends of the quiz takers.

Let’s do a little Facebook tutorial here so you can see what Facebook knows about you- including your political affiliation specifically, it’s all in your account for you to see and control.

Visit Facebook’s ad preferences page: you can see for yourself what Facebook knows about you. In “Your Information,” under “Your Categories” is why you receive the “news” that you do: it’s not unbiased. It’s specifically biased the way you want it to be biased.

As with the other ad preferences on this page you can remove it by clicking the X to the right. Go through all the interests sections in “your interests.” Advertisers you’ve interacted with is a fun one too, click X to delete in top right corner when you hover over each one. Just remember, every time there’s update, somehow, they magically seem to reappear.

Also take a look at the apps you’ve already given permission to, you can find them under settings (little down arrow on top right of the blue banner bar, scroll to bottom of the drop-down to settings). Then on setting page, look to the menu list on the left, down towards the bottom, called apps. Click that and what pops up are all the companies you’ve agreed to give your data to, and they are still accessing.

Keep this in mind as well, these data points are what marketers are looking for to be able to make better use of marketing dollars, so they aren’t spending money promoting a vegan grocery store to those who are fans of sausage everything, or a two-seater sports car to a mother of four. If you don’t have a cat, you’ll be far more annoyed by ads for cat food, than ads for something you actually want, like those cute boots that you’ve been eyeing. Here is Facebook’s page that describes how your data is used to define these ads. The Facebook platform continues to exist as a free service because of the existence of ads.

That could change, though, says Patrick Renda, chief global strategist at Dragon Horse Agency.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see Facebook adjust its model, offering two or three types of user experiences such as free and tiered subscriptions,” Renda said. “This way the user and the company have the best of both worlds.  Think of the TV model where users migrated away to streaming Netflix, YouTube, Roku, or DirectTV for content and no ads or even terrestrial radio where users can choose between free radio, streaming, or satellite radio.”

But Renda is critical of how Facebook’s top executives handled the headlines.

“For executives who preached “leaning in” for so long and so visibly while the stock was going up and to the right, they were nowhere to be found over the past two weeks. This was a huge mistake,” Renda said. “As it stands now, their lack of response and poor PR crisis management has cost them $75 billion in market value, but even more damaging is the hit to credibility of the executive management team and the brand. As the great investor Warren Buffet once said, it can take 20 years to build your reputation and integrity and only five minutes to destroy it.”

Facebook is “social” media, It’s inherently about sharing. Want to stay on Facebook without giving it all away? The Verge offers a detailed how-to. Want to learn more about Ad blocking? Click here.  Ultimately, we are the ones responsible for the data we are offering, in this case, our personal preferences and basic demographic info. If you are on Facebook, they already have your info. If you delete Facebook, they still already have your info. If you don’t want it publicly available, don’t offer it up on a public platform like Facebook. Don’t like things, don’t share things, don’t review things, don’t message things, don’t save things- because at the most basic level, this is how the brain of Facebook is designed to work.

Do you have issues with Facebook’s policies? What would you want changed if you could? How would you recommend they go about it? If your idea creates a financial drain on the platform (like saying they should eliminate ads) how do you propose they make up for it? Let’s discuss!

Have ideas you’d like to add? Need more suggestions? Let me know!

Julie Koester is CEO of Life with Moxie, a Lifestyle Revolution Company, CEO of Moxie Creed, skincare beyond chemistry. You can reach her at

Passionate Living by Design, That’s Life with Moxie


© 2018 Lee Herald. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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