My Struggle with Data: The Dark Side and the Light Side

My brother’s left Facebook. My dad is getting ready to leave the blue F. I feel pressure to leave it as well. Why? Because I know Facebook is making money off my data and I don’t feel like I get a lot of value from the platform. Plus I’m crazily annoyed by the “sponsored posts” thrown into my feed. Facebook has turned into 80s TV programming. The shows you want to watch are surrounded by loud ads and other ridiculous shows that you have to sit through, to get the content you care about.

I care deeply about technology’s effect on our world. I may be a marketer — but first, I’m a person. I have a complicated relationship with online data.

Here’s a look at data from this marketer’s point of view: the dark side, the light side, and the potential for a better future together.

Why I Still Use Facebook

There are two sewing groups on Facebook that I’m incredibly involved in. These communities live inside Facebook and are filled with kindred spirits that help me figure out how to sew a french seam (leveling up!) and give me fitting advice. I love the value I get from these two groups. They just happen to be on Facebook.

I also have a young daughter. Our family and friends are spread out around the globe. And yes, Facebook is an easy sharing platform for photos.

As a marketer, I also need to stay on Facebook to see how companies are building communities, promoting their products and learn about the new tools Facebook offers for advertising.

When I take a high level view of my Facebook use, I basically use it for photo sharing and forums.

Why I Value Google

The other side of my digital coin is my complete and absolute surrender to Google. I use Google for almost everything: email, documents, photos and music. Why? Because Google makes my life easier and presents me with useful information, like when I should leave for a meeting or if my flight has been delayed. And all my services are synchronized so that I’m not logging out and logging into different apps and services all the time.

Having most of my digital content integrated with Google means I can view the photo album I have shared with my husband, plus it’s easily shared with other family members on Google… But they’re not all there and that’s the crux of any sharing platform.

We even have a Google Home mini in our kitchen that gives me news in the morning and makes it Google-easy to start a new podcast while I’m baking. No more flour all over my phone!

The Dark Side and the Light Side of Data

Recently when I tell people that I co-founded an insights company that uses customer data to deliver better experiences their reactions have changed. At the moment I get eye-rolls 🙄 and scrunched up foreheads. Fair enough. Data is seen as the dark side of the internet at the moment.

But like every industry there are companies that have bad practices and ones that have good practices. I started thinking about the Empire of Data and the Jedi Order of Data when the lovely Manoush Zomorodi (she is my podcast BFF) and her team at Note To Self released an episode called “Deep-Dark-Data-Driven Politics”. It was the first time I heard the words Cambridge Analytica and I learned about the personal data they’d collected from Facebook.

Over on the Dark Side you have data companies scrapping the internet, gathering all the customer data access points they can and then selling this data to other companies. Boo!!

On the Light Side you have data companies that get specific opt-in from customers and clearly tell them what they’re going to use their data for. Opt-in is like a digital handshake that lets the customer say, “Hey, here’s some of my data” and the company says “Thanks. We’ll keep it safe and use it to make your life better.

That’s what I feel like I’ve done with Google. My life is made better by their service and in return I give them access to my data.

As for Facebook I’m not convinced we’ve had that handshake. And with all their customers realizing how their data is being used on that platform it’s going to have to evolve or die. These mammoth social services look too big too fail, but they all come and go. Remember your first friend Tom on this social network that used to be the go-to social networking site? You might not.

If you’d like to join us on the Light Side, sign up for a free account.

Annabel Youens

About Annabel Youens

I'm a co-founder and CMO at AE. I believe that truly successful internet businesses have to connect people. {wave} When I'm not online I'm exploring beautiful Vancouver Island. Things I love: everything scifi, literary fiction, coffee, Google Music, my workhorse sewing machine and board games.