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Your Facebook data is for sale – and it always has been

February 2nd, 2009 6 comments

facebook_for_sale A recent article was published by a very famous (and well liked) blogging network yesterday that really irked me in a way that is requiring more of my effort.  I guess it is a good thing and ultimately I am quite happy that they posted this article because it has fueled a thought I have had for sometime:

I am sick and tired of “non-targeted” advertising

I don’t really care if all of the product and marketing directors know everything about what I buy and read on the Internet.  Truly I do not.  I have nothing to hide and I would release my data under full disclosure if the following qualifications were met:

1.) No one comes up to me on the street and says to me “Hey wanna buy a new mic stand for RockBand” (I like playing RockBand)

2.) I don’t get a flood of e-mails from marketing departments asking me if I would like to test drive the new VW CC (I own a VW Passat)

3.) My information about me is not connected to me in any meaningful way (e.g. I don’t want marketing people to know that I am really Ron West and that I live at 57 Gro…. – ooops)

See in my mind I am just a number – a thing – a buyer/seller in this consumer driven market and the data for what I buy, sell and talk about is really just data.  It may describe my habits and what I am interested in but it is not me.  I want to remain FaceBook profile #66004104.

Your Data is For Sale (sort of)

You can read the post that irks me here but let me point out a few of the important details: (Well first let me start off by giving you the all important title)

Facebook Plans to Make Money by Selling Your Data

C’mon – really do you have to put it that way.  I agree it got my attention – prompted me to read and comment – and I am now writing about it but – ok that title is genius.  But the problem lies in the text:

Starting this spring, companies will be able to selectively target Facebook’s members in order to research the appeal of new products through a polling system called Engagement Ads as demonstrated at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

If the Telegraph report is correct, Engagement Ads have had a massive tweak; companies will be able to pose questions to and receive feedback from selected members in real time based on user information that Facebook provides.

Ok that statement “selected members” please – that is misleading.  If we were in the court of law I would simply say “I object your honor” and he/she would say “Sustained”. Then I would ask for the statement “selectively target Facebook’s members” stricken from the record – and the judge would agree again.

Facebook is not going to give companies the ability to target Ron West or any of my friends.  Facebook is not even going to allow companies to target profile #66004104 or #40034994 or any other profile because if you log out of Facebook and you type in the following URL: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/profile.php?id=660041048&ref=name you know what you get? Nothing.  A login box.  Would Facebook be stupid enough to allow Pepsi or Coca Cola or any other company in to see that data? No.  That would be just plain stupid.

What Information is For Sale?

Ok – so now for the “shocking” news (at least for some of you):

YOUR DATA IS ALREADY FOR SALE

Well at least your likes/dislikes are already being used to drive advertisements.  Take a trip around Facebook.  Look at the ads in the right hand side of the page.  Notice anything peculiar?  I do.  They are all targeted to information about me.  Especially about where I live.  “Foreclosures in Massachussets”.  One of the commenter’s on the ReadWriteWeb blog post even commented about he is targeted by his sexual preference.

Take a look at the following public information about advertising with Facebook found here:

Target your exact audience with demographic and psychographic filters about real people. The targeting page defaults to people age 18 and older in the United States, but you are encouraged to modify this to reach the most appropriate people for your ad. Be sure to reference the top of the page for an estimate of the number of people who match your criteria. For more information, check out our FAQ for definitions of each target filter.

And if you actually read your EULA agreement (you do know what the EULA agreement is right?) you will see that the data you enter is not only yours but it also belongs to Facebook.  Check out some inserts from the Privacy Policy found here:

Facebook may use information in your profile without identifying you as an individual to third parties. We do this for purposes such as aggregating how many people in a network like a band or movie and personalizing advertisements and promotions so that we can provide you Facebook. We believe this benefits you. You can know more about the world around you and, where there are advertisements, they’re more likely to be interesting to you. For example, if you put a favorite movie in your profile, we might serve you an advertisement highlighting a screening of a similar one in your town. But we don’t tell the movie company who you are.

We may use information about you that we collect from other sources, including but not limited to newspapers and Internet sources such as blogs, instant messaging services, Facebook Platform developers and other users of Facebook, to supplement your profile. Where such information is used, we generally allow you to specify in your privacy settings that you do not want this to be done or to take other actions that limit the connection of this information to your profile (e.g., removing photo tag links).

…..

We do not provide contact information to third party marketers without your permission. We share your information with third parties only in limited circumstances where we believe such sharing is 1) reasonably necessary to offer the service, 2) legally required or, 3) permitted by you.

So – why am I so fired up? One reason and one reason only – misinformation. I believe that the post by ReadWriteWeb was designed to get people fired up (it worked) and by not providing some of the facts actually misguided lesser informed people.  Isn’t this the reason we are migrating from the Media best now which is governing the mainstream?