Are Facebook’s Messenger Bots A Privacy Concern Too Far?Even the least internet-savvy user will know about the dangers of bots.

The dangers of bots being used in scams is pushed every day to some extent. Even Barclays is currently running a TV campaign to make customers aware of scammers pretending to be from the bank. Bots are typically a key part of such scams, as well as ones including Nigerian princes and other such shenanigans.

Only last week the BBC published a story around a cybersecurity expert’s views on text message scams, and how Apple products are being targeted because of the perceived wealth of iPad owners.

So it’s pretty amazing to hear that Facebook is backing marketers to create their own bots in an effort to reach out to more customers through its Messenger app. Messenger Platform has been released in beta mode and is part of the company’s plan to not only take on Google, but to practically become the internet.

Announced at Facebook’s F8 developer conference last week, Facebook showed off a “bots for Messenger” tool; AI-powered interactions that companies can create for customers over Messenger.

A lot of industry bigwigs are dubbing the technology “conversational commerce” and are predicting that Messenger will become the go-to all-in-one mobile marketing channel for brands in a world suffocating from app saturation and enormous choice online.

Only, with advertising through messaging apps set to be the next big thing, it will also raise concerns over privacy and how much consumers are willing to take.

What do you think of bot marketing? Is it something you’re interested in taking up or is Facebook stepping into dangerous territory? Let me know in the comments section below.

Bot-tom of the barrel?

Facebook’s ideas are unquestionably clever and a marvel of modern technology, and are hugely successful for those that are looking at almost-instant ways to grow their brand online.

It’s doubly interesting because of the changes the European Commission is implementing when it comes to privacy and marketing. The proposals were first put forward in 2012, and in December 2015 the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission agreed on a new set of privacy rules to help make the EU fit for purpose in the digital age.

And, along with Google, Facebook has been on the wrong side of the privacy debate for years. The new rules are pretty tight and are said to give more power than ever before to people and their personal data, in effect giving them greater tools to control it and ‘data protection by design and default’.

It’s something you should know and read up on, especially considering “data protection authorities will be able to fine companies who do not comply with EU rules up to 4% of their global annual turnover.”

 

Facebook’s ideas are unquestionably clever and a marvel of modern technology

 

That’s huge for any business, especially smaller ones that may be looking to dip their toes into social media marketing for the first time and aren’t sure about the finer points of data collection and storage. Is advertising to people with a bot through a private messaging app really the answer?

It is for Facebook, with 900 million people using Messenger on a daily basis and a stable of heavyweight partners such as Bank of America and Burger King. Facebook says its bot software can recognise requests and fulfil a commercial order for users, such as buying flowers or getting food delivered.

As Facebook typically does, the platform will be monetised and likely take more eyes away from Google and Apple. Messenger is being downloaded at a faster rate than the actual Facebook app, and Facebook also has WhatsApp under its control. The market’s there, no doubt.

What are your thoughts on privacy and marketing, especially with new EU laws set to come into play? Is marketing through messenger apps fair game? Let me know below!

Share and share alike

There’s also no doubt of our disdain for the word bot, and comes hot on the heels of our concerns about the smart/automated content market spearheaded by American startup Persado.

We had to phone the bank the other day to speak about our account and had to go through the most ridiculous, frustrating voice-activated automation system for approximately 10 minutes before we could speak to a real human being, and basically had to repeat what we went over with the bot to the representative again.

So please forgive us if we don’t sound too enthusiastic about bot advertising; we’d like to see first-hand how it works and use it on a practical level before making our own judgements.

We’ll be fair, though, and admit that its potential is exciting and undoubtedly enormous. It also appears to be easily scalable on a mass basis; something Burger King and similar will have no doubt been enamoured by.

 

Messenger bots have the potential to make a lot of money for Facebook

 

We just hope it doesn’t lead to lazy marketing and that, before investing in bots and app messenger campaigns, advertisers have a good grasp on the upcoming changes to EU data protection and that people have given clear consent that they’re OK with being reached out to in such a private way.

Because there’s also a cultural angle to consider. Last year it was widely believed that a number of teens and millennials were abandoning Facebook for other platforms amid privacy concerns and that it wasn’t cool anymore.

And though that theory has recently been rebuffed, there is a real concern that users are sharing less original content with people unwilling to share personal and private updates as their friends list grows – the entire point of Facebook and an essential part of its core service.

Facebook is at something of a crossroads in that respect. People are sharing content posted from other websites and pages instead of connecting with others. Messenger bots may have the potential to make a lot of money for Facebook and brands that use the service properly, but they mustn’t forget the values of such a large audience, its privacy, and why they joined in the first place.

 

If you’d like to know more about reaching out to and targeting a local audience through social media marketing contact a Webpresence representative today.