In major news for advertisers, it seems Instagram is intent on allowing users more control over the data that’s collected and shared. As a result, a new option is available in the settings regarding personalization with ads. If users have a problem with third-party data collection, they can choose to opt-out (although this undoubtedly will affect ad personalization).
For users, they’ll access this setting through the ‘Data From Partners’ section of the app. If you have a marketing strategy spanning multiple platforms, you’ll know that this was also an addition to Facebook earlier in 2020. Now, Instagram is following in the same footsteps. By opting out of partner-sourced data, users don’t receive personalized ads.
Over the years, Instagram has tried to deliver relevant ads to users. However, it went beyond using data from Facebook and Instagram by also gathering data from other websites and apps. Ultimately, the goal was to gather as much information about each user as possible to then deliver the right advertisements. Facebook has done the same in the past with SDK and various other platforms.
Recently, Instagram as a whole has moved towards the ecommerce market, and so these insights have increased in value. Businesses both generate direct app sales and retarget using off-platform data (both transactional and browsing data). With this, the demand for advanced customer tracking has rapidly increased. Therefore, the question of how users are being targeted and how off-platform activity is monitored has been at the core of many debates.
Compared to before, users now have more control over how they’re tracked. We’ve all been shocked at how accurate social media apps are with their ad experiences; sometimes, it seems like we express an interest in a topic once and suddenly we’re seeing ads for it everywhere. Those concerned now have options to opt-out of this data collection and usage.
Don’t worry, the industry isn’t relying on guides like this to spread the news. Instead, Instagram will send a notification in the app to all users soon. As part of this, it will encourage users to check their settings, with a particular focus on the ad settings. If a user has already made this change on Facebook, it should transfer across to Instagram automatically.
As mentioned, ecommerce has grown exponentially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this growth is expected to continue into 2021. With the early implementation of this setting, Instagram may hope that the number of people opting out is minimal. Either way, it’s great news that users are getting more control, but it also has significant implications for businesses advertising on the platform.
With these changes coming to Instagram, it’s important to consider the data policy of the social media platform. For both users and businesses, the following is collected to support the many Facebook products:
First and foremost, the easiest data for the platform to collect is the bits that we provide as users. When creating an account, for example, we have to enter our email address, name, and other details. After this, Instagram may collect location data from photos. In fact, this is an important source because metadata impacts the features offered by Instagram. Depending on your history and the data, the tool suggests specific filters and masks. There are laws in place to protect certain pieces of data; this includes political views, religious views, philosophical beliefs, and ethnic origin.
Secondly, Instagram collects data based on the habits of users. This section is all about our habits, the videos we watch, our actions, how long we spend consuming certain pieces of content, as well as the products we use from the brand.
In a similar way, Instagram gathers data regarding the hashtags and groups we use, the Pages we interact with, and even the device we use while performing these actions.
For some users, it’s worrying to learn that Instagram can collect data about ourselves when we don’t even provide it. That’s right, other people can provide data about you when interacting with Instagram and other products. For example, another user might tag you in a picture or comment on one of your uploads.
Finally, anything you purchase through one of the Facebook products is also noted and helps to form the profile it has of you. Even when spending money in a game or donating to a cause, transactional information is stored. This includes billing information, contact details, and bank details.
As you’ve probably realized, these are all collected from the things we, or others, do. On the other hand, Instagram also collects data about us from the devices we use. This includes device operations, device attributes, signal, networks and connections, identifiers, cookie data, and device settings.
Aside from all this, and where this new setting really helps, is data collected from a third party. As users, we expect to have data collected when we’re actively using a platform. We expect Instagram to collect data about our activity and even our device. For many, the problems arise when the platform uses data collected elsewhere.
According to Instagram, this third-party data comes from publishers, advertisers, app developers, and other sources. In many cases, it is the result of the Facebook Business Tools in use. Even with Facebook Login, the Facebook pixel, and other plugins, it helps Instagram to gather data about individuals.
While this can pertain to the devices used, it also covers visited websites, any purchases the individual makes, ad interactions, and more. For all users who don’t want this data collected, Instagram users now have a choice to opt-out. Once selected, Instagram won’t be able to target users based on this information, and the information can’t be used to bulk up user profiles for advertising purposes.
For users, it’s impossible not to see the list above and worry about just how much information passes each day. With every click or tap, we leave a trail for both the platform and for advertisers on this platform. This being said, there are several reasons why social media websites like Instagram and Facebook collect all this data.
Above all else, information is often used to verify activity and the accounts of users. In the past, the very fact that Instagram has collected detailed information on users has helped to reduce harmful conduct in the community. Also, it’s used to identify and then prevent spam and other negative content. When something goes wrong, it’s this very data that Instagram relies upon to investigate the violation or suspicious activity. Sometimes, data even points to people who need help.
Data is also used for personalization, but it’s not just with regards to ads that this happens. Personalization also takes place in our Instagram Feed and Stories. The more data collected by Instagram, the easier it is to provide content that we’ll really enjoy. Also, data is used to recommend groups and pages that we might like.
For advertisers, data collection is essential, and it’s one of the reasons why the Facebook/Instagram targeting system is so refined. Without all this data, it would be much harder to reach out to the right audience whenever needed. Advertisers need to find the people most likely to respond to an ad and buy a product.
Lastly, Facebook and Instagram send marketing messages and other emails to users. Often, they both share news and inform of new policies, and this is made easier with data collection. The information is also used to innovate and continually improve the services that billions of people in the world enjoy. Innovation takes place across technological advancement, well-being, social welfare, health, and public interest topics.
Instagram now allows users to deny access to third-party data usage; while this will help some users to feel more secure online, it could also change the way we target as advertisers. At all times, it’s important to be open with consumers, and this is clearly the approach from Instagram and Facebook with these added control features. All users will get a notification explaining how they can opt-out of third-party data usage, and it’s important to plan for this.
Unfortunately, we don’t yet know how popular this setting will prove to be, but it could definitely impact advertising. Suddenly, the files for a healthy chunk of consumers will get thinner because we can no longer rely on third-party data usage. On the other hand, as seen in a previous section, Instagram will still be gathering plenty of data itself and this should prevent a mass exodus away from the advertising platform.
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