The Risks of the Advertising Arms Race

by | Dec 12, 2022 | Cyber Risk

As more and more people use the Internet, online advertisers have followed people developing tools to gather information on individuals’ interests and which targeted ads will be most effective. 

One company that has been at the forefront of this development is Meta (formerly known as Facebook). Meta has created numerous tools, plugins, and applications that help scrape information from users’ internet activity and provide that information to advertisers so they receive better data on the effectiveness of their advertising. These tools are very powerful but when they have vulnerabilities or are misconfigured they become ripe targets for bad actors to obtain sensitive information.

What is Meta Pixel?

One of the most recent examples of this has happened with Meta Pixel. Meta Pixel is a JavaScript tracking tool that gives website owners the ability to track who is interacting with their website and how they are doing so. In one case, a US Healthcare organization was using Meta Pixel but admitted they had misconfigured it, resulting in up to 1.3 Million patients having their data transmitted to Meta and its advertising partners. There have been two other instances of misconfigurations that have resulted in data breaches over the last two months. WordPress-related vulnerabilities have also been found in Meta Pixel in 2021. All these show how powerful and prone to misuse tools like this can be. 

What’s at risk?

This all leads to what areas have been put at risk by the Meta Pixel tool, it has been problematic, especially for organizations that have HIPAA-protected data and Personally Identifiable Information (PII). Some of the information that has been exposed to those organizations has included email addresses, phone numbers, IP addresses, and emergency contact information. This can cause the organization to have to disclose that breach and can result in fines for those under HIPAA compliance.

Lessons Learned

If you are interested in using some of these tools, they must be implemented in a measured and deliberate fashion. Meta Pixel and other tools like it have to be correctly configured to maximize their utility as well as to not compromise the security of the information that they track. 

Furthermore, healthcare may not be an appropriate industry to use these tools with since compliance and data security requirements are really high. 

Finally, this is another example of the tug-of-war between privacy and security and illuminates the driving factors of business and monetizing data. As data is becoming more and more valuable, companies and bad actors will look for more ways to monetize that data. Organizations need to properly assess their ability to safely deploy tools like these to reap the benefits and balance that against the risks and potential ethical concerns involved. Altogether tools like Meta Pixel and others are going to continue to be a part of the internet landscape so companies and individuals must o learn how to navigate the use of those tools in a safe and secure manner.

Here at Cowbell, our dedicated Risk Engineering team is here to help you stay prepared in this market. If you have any questions or need clarification on important security measures to implement, reach out to the Risk Engineering team for tailored support to make your organization as secure as possible.

Related Posts

Cowbell Blog

Grow your cyber IQ with our insights into cyber insurance, cyber risk, and cyber security.

See How Cowbell Can Protect Your Business