Over the past year, Facebook has been facing several lawsuits that are directly related to potentially illegal data-sharing, data mining, and privacy scandals. As a result, they have had to implement security measures that have made it much more difficult to pull data from the platforms.
These lawsuits have repercussions that affect a variety of industries, but especially companies that specialize in social listening. This article is designed to help you understand how these changes will affect your social listening experience.
To fully understand how social listening software is affected by the Facebook lawsuits, it is important to know some of the details that lead to these repercussions.
In 2018, it was revealed that a political consulting/data mining company called Cambridge Analytica had obtained data from more than 87 million Facebook users. In turn, they used this data to help the political campaigns of both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.
It’s important to note that it’s not necessarily illegal or even shady to obtain information through Facebook. In fact, over 270,000 users of a Facebook app called “This Is Your Digital Life” authorized Global Science Research (the creators of the app) to use their information.
However, Global Science Research abused these permissions to gather the data from the millions of friends of that original 270,000 people. They then sold it to Cambridge Analytica, even when the vast majority of those people never authorized their information to be used. Because of this misappropriation of data and the trust of the general public, Facebook was fined 5 billion dollars from the results of the lawsuits.
Even for a company valued at more than $130 billion , $5 billion is a lot of money. So, in an effort to correct their mistakes and double down on privacy, Facebook (and in turn Instagram) made several updates to their API (Application Programming Interface).
An API can be defined as an agreement with a client and the server, such that if the client asks for something in a specific way, the server will always respond in a specific format or launch a previously defined action.  This “contract” affects the amount of data and personal information that is shared with third-party clients.
This is a very important thing to note because social listening software is considered third-party software. These API changes use subscriptions that monitor and search for hashtag mentions. So when API endpoints are taken away and rate limits (rate limits are the number of times the API can be used in an hour) are decreased, it significantly impacts these services.  Social listening companies will still get some data, but significantly less than they used to.
Facebook also updated how profile links work. According to Facebook itself, “these links are intended to allow people who have social interactions in your app to find and connect with each other on Facebook”.  With the new API update, Facebook made it much more difficult to “use this feature in other, unintended ways” like gathering the data from millions of users through the permissions of their friends.
What This Means For Social Listening
So while you might find that you are getting much more information from Twitter than Facebook and Instagram, you are not alone. Facebook and Instagram altered these APIs across the board and all third party applications or software are only able to gather a fraction of the data that they once could.
However, it is important to note that the severity of these restrictions could lessen as the spotlight slowly moves away from Facebook. Regardless, for the time being, Facebook users and the general public are fed up with a lack of privacy on the internet, so the restrictions on Facebook and Instagram probably won’t change anytime soon.
To learn more about social listening, check out our listening tool here.