April Recap: Facebook's Latest Data Policy Changes

What a month it has been for Facebook!

Facebook and Instagram began closing functionalities of their API as a response to the Cambridge Analytica scandals in order to prevent unwarranted data sharing and protect user’s data. The company was able to source and sell 87M users’ data via a third-party application called “My Digital Life.”  

Zuckerberg appeared in front of Congress on April 10th and 11th to discuss Facebook’s privacy policies and discuss whether Facebook should be regulated.

Two weeks after Zuckerberg’s Congressional Hearing, Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp released new data policies.

Did you read any of the updated policies or blindly accept?

Facebook’s new data policy answered some of the questions Zuckerberg was unable to answer during his hearing such as how they collect user data, why they store user data and how users can delete their data.

So, with all these changes, we want to help you learn what exactly is going on and how these changes will affect you as users, as marketers and business owners.

How Does Facebook Collect Data?

Facebook collects the voluntary data that users provide. When a user signs up for an account, including what they post, communicate with other users, location tags, etc. This data can also include metadata that is attached to your photos and posts - like the location from where you posted. Which bring me to the next point.

Location, location, location. Even if your location services are turned off, Facebook is able to track your location via IP addresses, WiFi access points, or cell phone towers. So, your location is nearly always available.

On your computer, Facebook tracks your browser type (fairly common) and plugins. However, it also tracks the movement of your mouse and whether Facebook is in the foreground or the background of your open windows.

Facebook uses data sharing to track you on third-party sites. Their policy states, “These partners provide information about your activities off Facebook—including information about your device, websites you visit, purchases you make, the ads you see, and how you use their services—whether or not you have a Facebook account or are logged into Facebook.”

Big oof. Zuckerberg failed to mention that piece during his hearing. So regardless if are logged on or even have a Facebook account, they are tracking you online.

Why Does Facebook Collect Data?

Now here’s the big question, how do they use this bank of data they have collected on their 1.86 billion users?

Facebook’s policy states, “We use the information we have to deliver our Products, including to personalize features and content (including your News Feed, Instagram Feed, Instagram Stories and ads) and make suggestions for you (such as groups or events you may be interested in or topics you may want to follow) on and off our Products.”

The intent is to provide an improved advertising experience. You, as a user, are receiving targeted ads that are based on your interests rather than randomized ads that you’ll see on TV and radio.

What If I Want to Delete My Data?

If all of this totally weirds you out and you want to take a look at your data, it’s possible to do so on both Instagram and Facebook now. Instructions for how to do so are below. If you want to delete your data, you’re going to need to delete your account, should you wish to do so. Please note, deleting your account is permanent.

On Facebook:

If you’re concerned about the data that Facebook collects about you, there is a way to download your information. Go to Facebook Settings and select “Download a copy of your Facebook data.”

Facebook Settings.JPG

To delete your account, go to the Facebook Help Center and select “Delete My Account.”

Note: it could take up to 90 days for your data to be removed from the Facebook server.

On Instagram:

Like downloading your Facebook data, Instagram also recently released the ability to download your information from their platform. The tool allows users to access their media, stories, and profile information.

To delete your profile, go to Instagram’s Help Center, select a reason for deleting your account, enter your password, and your account will be deleted.

Changes to Facebook and Instagram’s API

Facebook and Instagram have been removing API capabilities previously accessible through third-sites.

First off, what exactly is an API?

API stands for Application Programming Interface. Each page on the internet is stored on a server. An API is a part of the server that receives requests and sends responses. The allow web pages to talk to each other and share data.

We’ve all seen websites that allow you to sign up for the site with your Facebook account. Anything from Bumble to Spotify has this an option. What’s happening when you sign up for a site with your Facebook account is Facebook is sharing your information with that site (with your permission) through their API.

So, what’s changing on Facebook?

  • Event API: Previously, apps were able to access event API, but, because these events have information regarding other guests in attendance third-party apps using the API will not be able to access the guest list or posts on the event wall.

  • Groups API: Groups can vary on privacy levels - public, private, and secret. Third-party apps that were designed to manage these groups through the Group API will now need approval from both Facebook and a group admin. Apps will no longer be able to access the Group’s members list along with names and profile photos of members that post to the Group.

  • Pages API: The Page’s API is generally used to schedule posts to Facebook Pages. Moving forward, all third-party app access the the Pages API will need to be approved by Facebook.

  • Partner Categories: Facebook will no longer be allowing third-party data providers to purchase ad targeting based off of user’s offline data and behavioral demographics.

  • Direct Message: Third-party apps can no longer connect to Facebook Messenger. Chatbots will no longer work for messaging and instant replies.

Facebook Messenger Update.JPG

For Instagram, third-party applications will no longer be able to access the following capabilities:

  • Follower List: Apps cannot view the follower list of any profile.

  • Relationships: Apps cannot follow or unfollow accounts.

  • Commenting on Public Content: Apps cannot comment on public posts.

  • Likes: Apps cannot like/unlike posts for a user’s account. In addition, apps will no longer be able to track what media users’ like

  • Subscription: Apps cannot receive notifications when media is posted.

  • Users Information: Apps cannot access the name, bio, comments, follower and following count, number of posts and profile pictures.

These will all still be accessible through the Instagram platform itself. The changes listed above will mainly affect shopping apps (that track users’ likes for targeted ads), bots (that like/comment/follow on an account’s behalf), analytic apps and unfollow apps.

For example, if you were using a follow/unfollow bot that you used to track who unfollowed your account, you will no longer be able to see the profile that unfollowed you.

All profiles will see a drop in engagement after this API change, however, the largest drop in engagement will happen for accounts using bots to boost their engagement rates. Engagement will now be strictly organic!

Change is in the air and with Facebook’s annual developer conference F8 next week, we can’t help but wonder… what’s next?


Carolyn Smurthwaite

As the marketing coordinator, Carolyn works with clients to ensure that their vision is seen across all channels. Her dedication to the client is reflected in her work. When she’s not at her desk, you can find her out in nature.