Facebook has issued an email to clients, which has been shared with Mobile Marketing, explaining the recent removal of HasOffers and Kontagent as Mobile Measurement Program partners.
Program partners are able to add a tracking SDK into their clients' apps to give them an additional measure of installs or further ‘downstream events’ from Facebook Mobile App ads.
In its email, the social giant highlights ‘ongoing efforts’ to ensure compliance with its data policy. It says that an internal audit found that HasOffers ‘was not adhering to the terms they agreed’, prompting the termination of the relationship.
A blog from Peter Hamilton, CEO of HasOffers, explains that this move by Facebook was ‘completely unexpected’. That's in spite of his company already being made aware of an issue around its handling of Personally Identifiable Information, raised early in Facebook's audit that started in September. Hamilton says they sought clarification on this and offered solutions to remedy the situation.
He goes on to explain that HasOffers ‘did not violate any privacy regulations, and there was no data leakage or inappropriate data provided to advertisers’, something they claim has been confirmed by Facebook. Kontagent CEO Andy Yang likewise said in a blog that ‘no data leakage, user privacy or security integrity failures occurred’.
So what’s really going on?
Speaking to another Mobile Measurement Program firm, Kochava, it's clear that Facebook's audit was intended to be stringent, even including staff interviews. "I was supremely impressed with the compelling level of interest from Facebook," said Charles Manning, CEO. "And that was part and parcel of our agreement with them. I find it quite hard to believe that there was a level of surprise [from the companies concerned]."
Although he doesn't think this is the end for either company he adds: "Not being able to participate in mobile with the largest publisher in existence is not insignificant." He doesn't, however, believe that yet another data scandal is bad for the industry. "This is a good indicator of health and growth in the space and industry – that partners are taking it seriously."
While Christian Louca, CEO of the Tamome ad network, says that the reason many companies keep data is to do with improving relevance for consumers, rather than anything sinister, he doesn’t believe this is the last we’ll hear on the matter.
“The need to be seen to adhere to the privacy concerns that are so prevalent in the market at the moment is becoming more of an issue – this is just one of many data privacy scenarios that we will see happening down the line.
"Big players like Facebook and Google, with such huge user bases, have to be at the forefront of making sure that they are making stringent steps to make sure data is held responsibly by themselves, not passed onto companies it shouldn’t be and not mishandled."
Commenting on HasOffers' advice to clients, which includes adding the Facebook SDK into apps as a short-term fix, Manning said: "The solution that they are suggesting is not workable for most app companies. Integrating multiple SDKs into an app as a short-term fix will add 20MB to the size of the app. And 90 per cent of its features are not needed for most users."
"But this is probably more about Facebook’s wider strategy. They clearly want to be in client apps, getting the coverage and owning the entire mobile ecosystem. This is yet another twist in the ever-changing mobile ecosystem and reinforces the need for specialists that can help navigate this kind of problem.”
The Facebook email explained that the change will come into force on 15 April. The company recommends three of its other 11 existing partners for these clients to move to, including Kochava, Ad-X and Apsalar.