Derek Cohen is usually a 32-year-old marketing consultant in Salt Lake City, Utah who today — four years after Cambridge Analytica used personality tests to glean Facebook users’ profile information along with target ads to them — uses quizzes to obtain Facebook users’ personal details, along with then uses those details to target ads to them along with others like them on Facebook.
Using Facebook’s current advertising tools, Cohen gets unsuspecting users to provide him with personal details — things like their bathing suit size, homeownership status, along with how much they spend on clothing — along with then plugs the information into Facebook’s ad platform to reach these people along with millions like them. The quizzes disguise themselves as fun online activities, for example, “Which Taylor Swift Song Best Represents Your Shopping Personality?,” yet are created to glean advertising data.
Cohen, who initially built This kind of service for an app called Qzzr, relies on the so-called “Facebook Pixel,” a tracker anyone can put on their website to target customized Facebook ads to people who visit their webpages. The Facebook Pixel helps power basic advertising, like those ads for boots in which pop up on Facebook after you visit a website looking for boots. yet This kind of can be used in different ways, such as tracking your answer when you tell a quiz you wear an XXL bathing suit, along with This kind of can do so without you knowing.
Over the past two weeks, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg along with COO Sheryl Sandberg have repeatedly defended the company’s current ad business. In multiple interviews, they’ve said they’ve plugged the holes in which allowed Cambridge Analytica illicitly obtain data on up to 87 million of their users. along with they’ve said in which their current ad system is usually Great for Facebook, its users, along with advertisers, because This kind of helps show people relevant advertising. yet Cohen demonstrates what’s still possible in Facebook’s refined ad targeting system.
“This kind of was funny to me to see This kind of big deal being made out of what Cambridge Analytica did, when in which was old news,” he told BuzzFeed News. “What I’m able to do with the options Facebook gives me is usually better. I can target more specific than in which.”
Cohen has been running these quizzes For 2 years, along with has worked with 10 advertising clients to reach approximately 4 to 5 million people with ads, he said. along with though he can no longer transfer the targeting audiences he built using these quizzes between advertisers, since Facebook banned the transferring of audiences last week, he did share them having a few to 10 additional advertisers before the modifications.
Qzzr, with Cohen’s assistance, initially managed the Facebook-tied quizzes for its clients. Facebook’s terms of service prohibit Qzzr by managing others ad accounts This kind of way, yet they permit offering advertisers the technology. right now, Qzzr offers the technical capabilities to run these quizzes to its top tier customers yet is usually not involved within the ad buys, its CEO Josh Kasteler, told BuzzFeed News. “We don’t feature This kind of, along with don’t have This kind of on the site yet This kind of is usually still within the platform, ” he said. “There’s probably less than the people I can count on my hand in which use This kind of.”
“If we wanted to, we could’ve sold data or rented out audiences,” Kasteler said. “yet we’re not doing anything with This kind of along with never have.”
A Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed News in which This kind of’s looking into the issue. “We’re investigating This kind of specific advertiser along with taking a close look at quiz experiences on along with off the platform,” he said.
Cohen runs ads on Facebook, many of which cost less than $500 per audience, in which send people to the quizzes. Then, he waits until approximately 700 respondents have given him answers he wants — a certain type of homeowner in which’s desirable to a solar company, for instance —along with he combines those users into a “custom audience” on Facebook, which he can then expand by asking Facebook to target millions of different people similar to the 700 he’s reeled in. Facebook knows a ton about these users, so This kind of can find people with similar lifestyles along with interests at a push of a button. Facebook calls these people “lookalikes.”
Cohen said the data he collects through his quizzes is usually anonymized. “All we had to do was create the lookalike audiences, along with in which might get us the first step we need to go down the rabbit hole.”
Cohen also said he mostly stayed away by collecting personal identifiable information, though he did say a bathing suit quiz he ran in which was trying to find out people’s body types did request test takers’ email addresses. “Something we did was — what’s your summer beach outfit? along with then when they get one, we’d say, ‘Hey, here This kind of is usually, if you want 20% off, give us your email address along with we’ll send you a coupon’ — we could use in which information if we wanted to.”
As for disclosure, Cohen said he’s sure the people whose data he collects have no idea. “Look at what’s going on right right now. Nobody knew anything. ” he said. “Nobody ever knows in which they’re being added to advertising audiences.”
Alex Kantrowitz is usually a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News along with is usually based in San Francisco. He reports on social along with communications.
Contact Alex Kantrowitz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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