4 Corollaries From the Facebook, Dealer Data Fronts

April 16, 2018

I’ve been following the controversy involving Facebook and its user data.

The debate and discussion remind me of an issue that’s very familiar to dealers—how dealership data is handled and monetized by some technology partners.

To be sure, the particulars of the issues facing Facebook and dealers are different. But there are four apparent corollaries I find intriguing:

Data management clarity. The recent Congressional hearings affirmed a key similarity between Facebook users and dealers: End users didn’t fully understand how a technology system provider might use the data they added about themselves and their customers to the system itself. On one hand, it’s completely understandable. No one reads the fine print anymore, even if we should. But on the other hand, many of us simply trust our technology partners to do the right thing. When this initial trust erodes, there’s usually trouble.

Ownership/control. It seems clear from the Facebook case that, while end users may have OK’d the company’s data gathering/sharing practices, there’s a sense that their data has been compromised, if not misused. The ownership/control question is similar for dealers. For their part, dealers share the sentiment that the data moving through their in-store technologies is their data, and they ought to have a greater say in how it’s managed and monetized.

Probability of oversight. I suspect we’ll see at least some effort by federal lawmakers to enact a more in-depth level of oversight, and understanding, to the regulations that guide the relationship between social media stewards like Facebook and their end-users. Perhaps the biggest take-away is that the feds, and Facebook users, are now paying more attention. The same is true with dealership data. Federal regulators and dealers are paying more attention. Will the regulatory landscape change on either front? Only time will tell.

Lack of alternatives. As a Facebook user, I’m not happy to learn what’s come to light in the past few weeks. But I’m not like some of my friends, who’ve said “no more” and deleted their Facebook accounts. Why? For me, the answer is that there isn’t really another alternative. I really do like the way Facebook keeps me in touch with family and friends. I’m like everyone else…Facebook is part of my daily routine. The situation’s similar for dealers. Many feel that they can’t part ways with their partners because their technology and tools play a key role in their day-to-day business operations.

In the end, I am optimistic that the debate and discussion about Facebook and dealership data will land in a good place.

Ultimately, both situations suggest we’ve arrived at a critical juncture—where the fast-moving pace of today’s technology-disrupted world has paused. It’s an arguably one-time opportunity to take stock of what’s happened and apply the lessons to shape a digital data-sharing environment that’s more equitable, fair and just for all parties.

With so much at stake, it seems the right thing should be the only thing to do.