Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, November 18, 2021

Riding on its late momentum, Facebook launched its Social Ads initiative to demonstrate how it can make money in an innovative, seemingly user-friendly (even user-engaging) way.

Aside from questions about the legality of auto-recruiting members into advertising campaigns, some are now criticizing just how Facebook is rigging the default user settings to build an essentially shanghai-based ad network.

To give you an idea, when Leah Pearlman announced SocialAds on the Facebook blog, she claimed that Facebook would never “sell any of your information”. But… hmm… aren’t my demographics *my information*? Isn’t what type of movie I like *my information*? Who is Facebook to determine what my information is? Even though companies can’t identify me personally, they are paying Facebook for my age, my interests, and other things about me that make me who I am.

And really, does Facebook think that Blockbuster doesn’t have my identity here? I need an account to rent a movie… so obviously Blockbuster knows who I am. So Facebook is kind of saying “we’re not going to give any identifiable information to 3rd parties… as you’ve already done that”. It really doesn’t matter that Facebook doesn’t give up my email… that’s a cop-out. What they’re doing is connecting the dots… in an under-handed way.

On one level, Facebook is no different from every other software application, on the Web or off. Everyone knows (or should know) that a program’s default settings determine the vast majority of usage patterns. For instance, how many billions of Excel files are floating around out there with the standard three worksheets within the workbook — even though only one of the worksheets has any actual data on it? Even experienced users don’t bother diving into options menus to change settings unless there’s a really compelling reason to do so. In that sense, Facebook isn’t doing anything particularly new, and thus not particularly malicious.

The tricky part is that “connecting the dots” business. If Facebook really is serving as a bridge to deliver key trigger information to its partners, then that’s a serious breach of trust. It’s as though Facebook is pooling fragments of user demographics with other user-frequented sources, thereby building a data-mined version of marketing cryptography.

This is mostly speculative, but given the capabilities of software aggregation databases, not at all out of the range of possibility. If the goal is to build consumer profiles toward which to target the most refined marketing pitches possible — the greatest bang for the buck via honed audiences — then Social Ads could be the glue that helps all the other elements stick together.

I haven’t joined up on Facebook yet. When/if I do, I’ll have to cook up a bunch of fake personal info. No sense in helping them build a more-perfect machine.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 11/18/2007 11:37:39 PM
Category: Internet, Advert./Mktg., Business
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2 Feedbacks »
  1. great points . . . glad we’re on the same team :)

    Comment by headcoach — 11/19/2007 @ 02:52:41 PM


    When it was pointed out how Facebook’s new Social Ads program likely is playing fast-and-loose with users’ privacy and consent, I considered the issue to be, ultimately, too abstract to faze the majority of Facebookers. As long as it didn&#…

    Trackback by Population Statistic — 11/21/2007 @ 09:43:21 PM

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