How often do you take BuzzFeed tests

This is the data used to pay quiz participants at Buzzfeed

How the content portal builds great targeting profiles

Voluntary and free user information about their own consumer behavior and product preferences are the dream of every advertiser. Where can you find it? At Buzzfeed. Millions of users reveal in the quiz “Are you a teen?” Whether they wear Converse, Nikes or Doc Martens and whether they own an iPhone or iPad. We took a closer look at the extent to which the viral portal stores data.

Buzzfeed knows everything about its users

The quiz “Are you a teen?” Hides between funny quiz questions about curfew and selfie production, both explosive questions, for example about alcohol or marijuana consumption, as well as questions that advertisers are clearly interested in about owning certain shoe brands or Apple products.

Excerpt from the buzzfeed quiz "Are you a teen?"

Using this quiz example and the Google Analytics Debugger, we analyzed which information is actually saved by Buzzfeed. Result: a lot. First of all, it can be seen that every answer to a quiz question from BuzzFeed receives an extra ID. If a user confirms the statement “I wear Nikes” with one click, this statement can be traced back to the user. The interaction creates an event that is sent to Google. Among other things, this information is passed on:

  • Is the user connected to Buzzfeed via Facebook?
  • What gender is the user?
  • In which age group is the user?
  • How often has the user already shared buzzfeed content on Facebook, Twitter or by email?
  • Is the user logged into Buzzfeed?
  • In which country does the user live?

Buzzfeed collects a total of 50 pieces of user information of this type when answering a single question.

Screenshot Google Analytics Debugger

You have no interest in the data of the individual user ...

The amount of data that Buzzfeed collects is immense. Now the question arises: what does the company do with this information? Buzzfeeds Senior Communications Manager DiRusso told Newsweek that the company anonymized all user data and was only interested in the data in a summarized form. The behavior of the individual user is irrelevant for Buzzfeed. Dao Nguyen, also a Buzzfeed employee, justified himself in a similar wording in a comment under a blog post by British e-commerce expert Dan Barker. Numerous comments from Barker and other readers who wanted to learn more about the storage of the anonymized data and the technology behind it went unanswered.

... or is it?

In BuzzFeed's privacy policy, it is pointed out that information from the device and the web browser is automatically saved as soon as the user uses the Buzzfeed services - including IP address and cookie information. It also states that the information of an IP address is stored but not published.

Buzzfeed quiz as an advertising tool

During our research, we were able to determine that the user was assigned a unique ID, which, however, was actually anonymized. For the advertisements that appear to the user on the Internet according to his quiz answers, however, a name is also irrelevant. Incidentally, the code also provides information that Google Analytics is connected to Doubleclick - a Google service that can be used to track events in order to display banner advertising on Google, for example. Since the same response IDs can be found on Buzzfeed and Google, it can be assumed that the user profiles are linked to one another and that these are also stored in a database.

The possibility of buying a user with a certain profile based on his behavior for banner advertising - regardless of the websites he is on - is already used more in the USA than in Germany. The big advantage: Once a user has been marked with his or her valuable profile properties, you can buy him again as often as you like, sometimes on very affordable sites. Furthermore, it is easy to imagine that in the background of Buzzfeed data is transmitted to so-called data management platforms in order to address them via real-time bidding independently of Google or even to sell them on.

Given the amount of data Buzzfeed tracks on a single quiz, it's not unlikely that the company will soon generate more revenue from off-site advertising than from on-site. It will be exciting to see how the data protectionists in this country will react to the German Buzzfeed offshoot that is in the starting blocks.