There will always be two types of people in this ever-growing world: those that agree with something, and those that don’t. There is often a third type of person who is “on-the-fence”, or rather, who generally don’t give a rat’s arse about the topic of debate. Well, in terms of online privacy and Facebook ads, you should be very concerned — but not exactly “concerned” with a negative connotation.
Why should you care about this discussion? Because it involves you directly! Facebook is tracking everything you do online and using it to earn revenue from advertising activities!
But… Is that really a bad thing?
Think about it — Facebook is essentially utilising the power of the Internet to know where you go and what you do online, especially on its own social media platform, so that it can show you advertisements that are relevant to you; ads that you want to see, when you want to see them.
I consider that as a win-win! Facebook gets revenue from publishers who advertise to consumers, so that Facebook can continue to improve its service, and I, as a consumer, am getting the ads that I want to see. But not all people think the same way…
On one hand
A Seattle-based marketer by the name of Kane Jamison has written about his experience with Facebook ads: “Speaking as both a consumer and as an advertiser, I think that Facebook’s ad capabilities make internet advertising a better experience overall. The majority of promoted topics that I see in my Facebook feed are relevant to my interests, and they’re worth clicking on more often.”
“Speaking as both a consumer and as an advertiser, I think that Facebook’s ad capabilities make internet advertising a better experience overall.”
Ads provide a better shopping experience, as consumers get shown advertisements that are relevant and relate to their needs. Isn’t that what Internet users want? (Well, apart from no advertisements at all).
We don’t want to see ads about something completely irrelevant, but we also don’t want Facebook to have our information?
Advertisers receive more information in order to better understand their customers and their needs — i.e. what they shop for, how they shop for it, why they shop, etc. — so that you get shown what you want to see.
Essentially, there’s an age-old option for dilemmas like this — if Facebook ads tracking freaks you out, simply don’t use it. This leads to the weigh up of the opposing sides: would you rather be freaked out by Facebook ads tracking, or enjoy the social media platform with your friends and family?
On the other hand
Whereas, Peter Eckersley, the chief computer scientist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, calls Facebook’s targeting methods, “the most invasive in the world.” He can’t stomach the idea of targeted, relevant ads, yet, has Facebook himself — which he states is the “paradox of modern life”, as he uses it to keep in touch with friends and family.
“We’re strongly incentivised, by the culture around us, to use this technology. It’s incredibly useful – and an incredibly giant structural problem for our privacy.”
Caitlin Dewey’s article on the debate involves an interesting take on the online tracking: “Take the example of the ad for your mother’s local florist: that might have been targeted to women from your hometown (which you’ve told Facebook) whose mothers’ birthdays are coming up (that’s in your Facebook calendar), who live away from family (based on off-site activity) and who have a high estimated income (according to Acxiom).”
That sort of puts everything into perspective, as if Facebook is stalking you beyond the confines of its social media platform and into your other ventures on the web.
It’s all about perspective.
Essentially, there’s no right answer as to whether it’s okay or not that Facebook follows us around the web in order to understand more about us. Some people like that, because further understanding consumers is both beneficial for businesses and consumers. Other people don’t like it, because they don’t appreciate Facebook learning more than they should know already.
Personally, I think that there’s a line between being comfortable with their use of our online information and being uncomfortable with it, but so far, the line hasn’t been crossed.
If you’re interested, check out all of the 98 data points that Facebook uses to targets ads to you.