What does my Facebook data say about me – and how do I access it?

What is Facebook / Google Data?

Wherever you go online, you leave information behind about yourself. This is referred to as your “digital footprint”.

Consider everything you do when you’re online:
Check into your favourite bar on Facebook.
Post an image of a great dinner at a particular restaurant.
Conduct a Google search for a car.
Fill in an enquiry form.
Visit a website and look at a sneaker product page.

All of these activities leave a “digital trail” of data, that with enough smarts, a good digital marketer can connect the dots on this activity and potentially build an image of you as a person. This “unique” profile may be anonymous; in other words, I may understand that there’s a person who has been undertaking certain activities that lead me to believe that they are buying a car, however I may not know your name, email address or anything specifically about you.

This is known as the difference between anonymous vs attributed data. I may identify one or more groupings of data, and infer that there’s a person wandering around car websites and clicking on car ads, but I may not really know it’s you.

However, the moment you link your Facebook profile or enter your email address, then I can get very specific about you. I will know your name, maybe your age, maybe your address, and I can use a data enrichment program to flesh out more – maybe even take your public posts and other publicly available data to “fill out” your profile.

This is done in order to understand certain things that may allow me a very specific “sell”. For example, if I can see that you have children, I may do better by selling you a 4WD than a two-seater sports car.

How do Facebook and Google know how to target me in this way?

Facebook and Google make money by selling advertising space that is targeted, so I may set up “audiences” within their platforms in order to target you better. Using a pool of advertising content, which I like to call “Content as a service”, I might create hundreds of ads, each of which are slightly different, and each of which might have a slightly different reason to buy the car. For example, three variations on the ad might be:

  1. This car can fit the whole family
  2. This car is fuel efficient
  3. This car is designed and built in Germany

I will deploy those ads on Facebook and Google networks and say to them: Please find me audiences of people who are attracted to that advertising. I may then link certain “marketing automation” elements to optimise further. so if you visited the car website and spent some time on the “fuel efficiency” page, I may communicate that visit so that Facebook and Google know to send you the ad on fuel efficiency.

But Facebook and Google may also know more about you, and are in a far better position to target you than just my assumption based on a website you clicked.

How much do Facebook and Google know about me?

Using these steps, I’ll help you extract all of the data that Facebook and Google know about you – and also the information that apps you’ve installed might know about you.

1. How to access your Google data

Visit: ​​https://myactivity.google.com

If you’ve got a Google account (which many billions of people do), then every Google search, YouTube video you’ve watched, every Google Home voice enquiry and every place you’ve visited is logged and tracked here. Every website you’ve visited from a Google search is there. And if that website has Google Analytics installed (which nearly every website in the world does), then Google will know what you’ve visited, how long you visited for, and what activities you undertook on that site. Further, they know about your location, IP address, device you visited on and plenty more.

2. How to access your Google Maps data

Visit: ​https://www.google.com/maps/timeline

As most people have a smart phone with GPS built in, Google asks for permission to track your location, even if the app isn’t active. In other words, passive tracking of your every move. This link allows you to understand where you’ve been, and allows Google to understand what your movements are, so it might be able to classify you as a “frequent restaurant goer” or “someone who has been visiting car yards” and therefore allow me as an advertiser to target you more effectively.

3. How to access your Google Ad Settings data

Visit: ​https://adssettings.google.com

This list shows “topics you like” and “topics you don’t like”. Googles uses searches, web visits and real life visits to understand your interests as a person. It then puts them into a list that only you can see. Advertisers then buy ads on the Google advertising network and may ask for “Everyone who is interested in buying a car within 20 kms of my car showroom”. This list is aggregated and you get served ads on that basis.

4. How to access your Google apps data

Visit: ​https://myaccount.google.com/permissions

If you use Google to log in to certain apps or websites (called social signon), while you make life easier by not having to remember many different passwords, it does give Google some access to data on the apps and websites you are logged in to. You can see what that access is, and what level of access from this page.

5. How to extract all of your Google data

Visit: ​https://google.com/takeout

Please note – this does not DELETE your data from Google, it only allows you to extract it. However you’ll see there’s a lot there, especially if you use a large number of Google apps and products, from Gmail to YouTube to Google photos.

6. How to track your YouTube search data

After Google itself, YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world (Facebook’s search sucks). If you’d like to see what your entire YouTube search history is, click here: ​https://www.youtube.com/feed/history/search_history

7. How to track your YouTube view data

Here’s everything you’ve ever watched on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/feed/history

8. Here’s all of your Facebook data

There are a couple of levels of Facebook data. There’s what Facebook knows about you, and then there’s the apps that you have allowed to access your Facebook data.

In order to know who you’ve given access to, click this link: ​https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=applications&section=all
Here you’ll see a huge amount of apps and websites that you may have used to log in (again, Social signon in order to not have to remember multiple email addresses and passwords). Look through these, you may be surprised at how much detail you’ve granted some of these logons, especially the older (pre-2015) apps. These apps often have access to all of your photos, information and friends information. And – you’re the one that allowed them to do it. you can change it or simply remove access.

9. How to access your Facebook ad preferences data

Visit: ​https://www.facebook.com/ads/preferences/?entry_product=ad_settings_screen

Here you’ll see all of the various interests Facebook believes you have, based largely on things you’ve liked, things you’ve posted, ads you’ve clicked, places you’ve visited and sites you’re connected to.

10. How to access all of your Facebook Data

It’s extremely hard to lie to Facebook. While you can always put in a false name or username into Instagram or any other platform for that matter, Facebook is excellent at getting the truth out of you. While websites and platforms of old had “usernames” and crazy handles, Facebook rewards honesty: Your real name, your real birthday, your real data. It punishes you by not putting in your true data by not connecting you to your friends as well, an in-built reward mechnism. Therefore it’s by far the most powerful means to gather data on people.

In order to understand what Facebook knows about you, download your Facebook data via this link: ​https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=account – then go to “Download a copy of your Facebook data” on the bottom of the text.

The moral to the story

If you don’t want to share your information online, then it’sbest you don’t register for free services. Remember the truism: If the product is free, you’re the product. There is a tradeoff between what you give and what you get; in marketing this is known as a “value exchange”. If you must use Facebook and Google (which in all honesty I must say are superb services), then be aware that information you share with them and through them with other organisations must be something you are happy to share.

These organisations (and most marketers) treat data with respect – after all, it is a privilege to have information on customers. However be aware of what this data is, how this data might be used, and the nature of the value exchange.

I’m in B&Ts “Meet the Futurists” – marketing trends & predictions

B&T has come out with a new feature, “Meet The Futurists”. They asked me and a number of fellow marketing and advertising leaders what our views (predictions) were about marketing trends.

My answers covered: the media industry, digital marketing, the advertising industry, blockchain, marketing science (Ehrenberg), lean startup principles in marketing, artificial intelligence and plenty of other areas.

Here’s the piece on marketing trends / futures (click the image to download the PDF):

Here is the full interview:

What’s your one BIG FUTURE prediction for media in the coming years?

Media will go from a people heavy industry to a technology platform heavy industry. Artificial intelligence will drive applied media outcomes, where a couple of smart media strategists sitting across a number of software platforms will replace the jobs of thousands. This will massively erode margins and make most media companies shrink and die. Further, blockchain media attribution will provide clients with transparency they can only dream of now. These platforms will democratise the industry, drive increased transparency and trust, and better media and client outcomes, making it easy for any creative / comms / PR agency or client to take media buying in-house.

How will our workplaces change to suit?

In the old days, organisations grew, and with scale they gained certain economies: The ability to buy expensive barriers to entry, the ability to purchase sophisticated computers and software platforms, and the ability to hire top talent via expansive human resources departments that would ensure new entrants were facing an extremely steep battle in matters of cost, quality and scale.

However that has all changed. It’s now the opposite, as highly sophisticated software is available at a per seat, per month basis. Talent is now accessible via open online markets such as Linkedin. Huge computer systems that were once physical are now virtual, such as AWS. And even the manufacturing of goods and services has been commoditised via trading platforms such as Alibaba. Any founder or entrepreneur has BETTER access and ability than enterprise. A credit card is more agile than a procurement department.

So, the only advantage large businesses have over small businesses is their access to capital. But because large organisations don’t generally adhere to lean principles, they are afraid of marketing-based validation, and have mountainous layers of bureaucracy, their capital is wasted.

Our workplaces will therefore become smaller, more agile and more focussed. Like creative industries such as music and film, where vast swarms of teams gather to work on projects at various phases of production, marketing workplaces will be a mix of highly specialised people supported by a “sexy stack” of software, virtual assistants and AI bots enhancing and applying our knowledge and skills at scale.

Algorithms are fast replacing human brains. Should the thinkers and the creators be worried?

Linking neural networks and machine learning to marketing science will drastically simplify marketing strategies, tactics and approaches, and it make marketing much easier and more effective. Thinkers and creators will be empowered – most of the work of people in advertising, marketing and media could be easily replaced and most likely will be in the next three or four years. Audience identification, profit / revenue growth strategy, product optimisation, profit pool estimation, budget allocation, channel resource allocation, media planning, media buying, media optimisation, creative optimisation and workflow management can all be done with software now. Creativity, ideas, insights, innovation and corporate strategy cannot yet be done by machines. Creatives and planners should be fine – for the foreseeable future.

What will brands increasingly have to do to stand out above “the noise”?

As Peter Drucker once said: “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions; marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

So how do brands then distinguish themselves with marketing and innovation and stand out above the noise? By adopting marketing science and lean startup principles. Marketing science is yet to make serious inroads, and until it is accepted rather than seen as a subjective fad, then marketers and agencies will truly struggle to achieve great results, and therefore be taken seriously by business leaders.

One of key challenges here is ensuring there is something to talk about – the products and services must be superb and distinctive. However the product innovation and product development lifecycles in business are generally too slow to outpace competition, so distinctiveness and excellence are increasingly difficult.

Further: Most efforts in business around ideas, products and innovation is merely internal noise – LMNA (Lots of Meetings, No Action). Worth nothing until it is shipped.

So therefore, market-validated innovation must play a more substantial role. Shipping and testing product variations, ideas and communications to new markets rapidly and iteratively is the only way brands will survive. Test every idea, every innovation, every suggestion at great reach – and learn in a mature, failure-filled way.

Mumbrella advertising review: Qantas (great), CUB (OK), Black Hawk (half-baked) and nab (forgettable)

Mumbrella asked me to review a series of current Aussie ad campaigns.

Here’s what I said:

1. Qantas → was bringing the iconic “I still call Australia Home” anthem the right thing to do? Is Qantas advertising becoming stale? In your view was this an effective way of creating an inflight video? Why/why not?

Qantas ads have been truly awful for a long time, from the baffling work of Droga5 to the more recent blandness peddled by the late Neil Lawrence / Monkeys in the “Feels Like Home” campaign (I’d suggest travel advertisements that inspire people to travel in a big, branded, energetic way work better than ads that are dull, unbranded and draw imagery from observing people arriving safely into a dark and empty airport terminal).

This however, is an excellent piece of work; easily the best safety video I’ve ever seen.

It begins with the intense range of emotions at Departure: Excitement, the thrill, the emotion, the heartache, over rapidly into a big city visit, and then takes us on a journey through a range of external endorsements of Australian culture. There’s nothing Australians love more than people “from overseas” validating our accent, our approach to life, our larrikinism, our resilience, even our songs. When the bloke on top of the Andes grabs the guitar and belts out a few notes of “I Still Call Australia Home” (the best brand asset Qantas has after the flying Kangaroo) to the surprise and rapture of his fellow global travellers, it’s basically peak Aussie pride. I can imagine every person in the plane’s eyes moistening as they watch scenes of Aussie cricket in Tokyo, Aussie flat whites in London and Aussie Vegemite in that beautifully shot scene with the Shanghai family.

It’s an affectionate, happy and positive embodiment of “The Spirit of Australia”. This is what Qantas’s ads should be like from now on.

2. CUB → This ad has sparked controversy with some Australians labeling it as discriminatory. Do you think this ad pushed the boundaries in the wrong way? Is the strategy behind the ad effective? Will it get people on side with the new beer? Why/why not?

I give this a 66% rating.
Product bundling is usually done in the most boring way possible. Shampoo brand X bundles new Conditioner brand X for free in a shrink-wrap to encourage trial. Dull as dishwater. But this effort at bundling a new beer flavour within six packs, and then “rewarding” people $500 to avoid any loss aversion is a really novel idea.

It’s another great idea to encourage people to “seek out” these errant bottles – a strongly branded call to action. Basing it on “you never know where red-heads can pop up in your family” is a cute, fun and brand-associated metaphor that people who live in the real world would most likely link to the product, remember (most importantly) and get a laugh out of.

However, the execution isn’t great. It tries to be funny but it’s a bit lame. The quick cut nature of the shots / stock footage looks a bit disjointed. If I wanted to generate some outrage in this ad, I’d save it for the incredibly long / word heavy script and matching overbearing, overly bloke voiceover. I was experiencing the McGurk Effect as I was watching it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McGurk_effect

3. Black Hawk → As an online tool, does the campaign do the job of taking consumers on a path to purchase? Will the campaign sell dog food? Why/why not?

I like the idea that people should be taking care of their dog with appropriate food quality and quantity. I like that there is a way of easily explaining how over- or underweight your dog is, using a human scale. However this execution is a little half-baked. What they are currently not doing is using (the relatively unbranded) DogCheck.com.au to gather data on every dog in Australia (and their owners) and using that information to advertise to the owners over the lifecycle of the dogs. According to my software, the site only has Google Analytics and Facebook plugins, not nearly enough to do the heavy lifting needed for a big, data-driven creative campaign. Build cross channel attribution by using plugins and opt-ins on the site that enrich the data before people are even asked for their email address. Further, they are not using social logins, so they demand of people that they manually enter their details. This would most likely discourage at least 60% of the eventual visitors to this part of the site.

The advantages of building a more “data-driven creative approach” with this is that they might be able to create a range of creative messages targeted to precisely the right dog owner at the right time. If the dogs are young, then promote the “puppy” product. If older, maybe the “softer” product. Creative executions that have an image / size of the exact dog the owner has. These are some of the opportunities that cannot not being exploited by this particular campaign platform right now the way that it’s constructed. If they make these changes, they might be able to drive dog food sales. Without it, it’s hard to see how sales will increase.

4. NAB → Does the ad do an effective job of continuing the ‘More than Money’ brand platform? What does the ad say about NAB’s personality?

It’s really tough for Aussie banks at the moment. Anti-capitalism is infecting our Parliament, media and even our boardrooms. The Royal Commission into banking is putting them under incredible pressure. Banking taxes are crazy – they’re a tax on consumers, as simple as that.

But despite all of that, banks underpin the prosperity of Australia. The Australian economy is basically “homes and holes” and banks have underpinned these sectors with cheap and plentiful money since white settlement. Home ownership rates in Australia – a core part of Aussie culture, is at historic highs (even despite the high cost of homes). Australian quality of life and purchasing power is also at historic highs. Credit is cheap. Bank service (while we’ll always whinge) is not too bad. Try “tap and go” in the USA, or try to find an ATM in Europe, and you find yourself yearning for the “four pillars”: ANZ, nab, Westpac and CBA.

And the funniest part? Aussie know this. Aussies totally trust their banks with money. Aussies own a massive range of banking products. There’s nothing Aussies would rather do than to put their money into one of our big four. As much as we whinge and say the opposite, we endorse the banks wholeheartedly with our actions, not our words. And actions are all that matter.

What Aussie don’t trust is banks that stray from their core purpose, which is to borrow from one person and lend to another in order to provide liquidity and make for a more prosperous society. The moment banks start talking about “more than money”, is when the famous Australian bullshit detector goes up. nab is running scared with “more than money”. “more than money” implies that there is something wrong with “money” and that “money” is only part of nab’s overall offer. It’s not. It’s what nab does, and does well. It’s not something to be ashamed of.

This work is simply an empathetic but totally forgettable attempt at expressing the flawed “more than money” premise.

And the original piece in Mumbrella.