For active users of Facebook it might be time to ponder what would happen if advertisers could scrap a lot more info about your behavior off of the immensely popular social media site. Do not think for a minute that Facebook cannot or likely will not use everything in its data mining kit bag to wrest more dollars out of marketing folks. You may think they are in the business of connecting us all up to exchange pleasantries, but that just happens to be the way in which they make money. The company is in the business of monetizing your information. This is why a posting on AdWeek is food for thought.
Writer Tim Peterson’s piece, “Facebook Giving Some Brands a Sneak Peek at Fans' Other Likes: Company testing new data offering—but only for 'priority' marketers,” should raise concerns if not alarms. As he points out, current most brands can see basically our name rank and serial numbers but not our other interests. And as he also points out, “A number of social marketing firms like Wildfire, SocialCode and Relevvant have created workarounds—typically asking users to give a brand permission to access their interest graph when they sign up for the brand’s Facebook app—but marketers are limited to that subset of their fans. Well, most marketers are limited.”
According to Peterson that emphasis really should be on the word most. He discovered that Facebook internally has allowed select brands the use of a brand affinity tool that lets them literally having access to your online behavior. The goal is obviously to us sophisticated analytics to create detailed profiles of people to be used for very targeted marketing. It is very valuable information and Facebook is well aware of this. In fact, Peterson paraphrases Adam Lehman, COO and general manager at data management platform Lotame, as syaing, “the tool would be a great example of harnessing quality social data because of its first-party nature. And in this case, brands would be able to act on that audience data for more than ad targeting on a broader strategic level.”
After first declining to comment, Facebook stated, "To help marketers build better campaigns, Facebook offers aggregated insights to managed clients that help them understand trends about their fan bases. These tools do not provide marketers with any data about their competitors' fan bases. As always, Facebook does not share user-specific data with advertisers."
Call me a skeptic but this sounds like one of Seth Meyer’s REALLY! routines on Saturday Night Live.
In the name of full disclosure, in a previous life I did some work years ago for a start-up that did not make it but was trying to do something similar. The idea was to be a trusted party that would collect people’s surfing behavior and present it in aggregated form to advertisers. They could then create profiles of people who say liked golf, visited Golf Digest and bought Taylor Made clubs with other golf-related ads. The aggregator would then blast out the ads to appropriate websites where there were high correlations of affinities. What Facebook is doing goes a bit further.
While I appreciate that Facebook needs to earn a buck, and gets it money from advertising, all of this smacks of big brother to me. The company has not said it is going to make the tool generally available to advertisers, but REALLY! One can only hope that as a user I will have a privacy option that prevents any and all information regarding me and my affinities from being used by third-parties. We are not going to be able to stop Facebook and or others from developing behavioral profiles. That train has left the station a long time ago as numerous articles that have highlighted how retailers are using “big data” have pointed out. What we can hope is having the ability to opt-out of the information being used, and keep our fingers crossed that it will not be. Again, REALLY!
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