Today’s Wall Street Journal story on Facebook’s plans to expand one-to-one interactive ad targeting is just the latest example of the growing threats to personal privacy online [”Facebook Gets Personal With Ad Targeting Plan.” Vauhini Vara. Aug. 23, 2007. sub. required]. The story notes [my italics] that “Facebook Inc. is quietly working on a new advertising system that would let marketers target users with ads based on the massive amounts of information people reveal on the site about themselves. Eventually, it hopes to refine the system to allow it to predict what products and services users might be interested in even before they have specifically mentioned an area.
As the industry watches the Palo Alto, Calif., start-up to see if it can translate its popularity into bigger profits, Facebook has made the new ad plan its top priority…”
Online marketers such as Facebook and so many others want to harvest the ever-flowing rich vein of personal/ behavioral-related info flowing over websites–our friends, interests, media consumption and buying habits, etc.–all so we can be targeted by precision multimedia marketing techniques. The FTC’s recently announced “town hall” meeting about online marketing and privacy–spurred principally by this blogger’s group and US PIRG with our 11/06 complaint–is a completely inadequate response to the problem. Frankly, the FTC cannot act as if they are clueless here, or suggest that the town meeting is part of an intense analysis. The problems are glaring and evident, as we’ve been making clear to the FTC for almost one-year now. It’s time for major policy action to protect the public from unscrupulous marketing techniques designed to invade our privacy and manipulate our behaviors. Facebook should be a wake-up call to the folks at 600 Pennsylvania Ave. and the Hill. If we can’t especially protect Facebook’s young users, (as well as with other social networking sites) it reveals how inadequate our governmental watchdogs are.
PS: It’s worth watching this Ad Age video on how marketers are flocking to Facebook. But a sub. may be required.
Latest stats on Facebook, via MediaPost:”
Facebook has grown three times as fast as MySpace in the past year, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. Seeing a massive influx of first-timers, Facebook U.S. visitor numbers reached 26.6 million in May–up a full 89% year-over-year and 3.6 million more than in April, according to comScore. Worldwide, comScore reported, Facebook reached 47.2 million visitors in May–8.4 million more than in April, and with an average of 20.6 visits per user.”
PPS! Yesterday, the Financial Times had an important story about the CIA using Facebook and other sites to target their recruiting. Here’s an excerpt [my italics]: “Underscoring the power of social-networking sites, the Central Intelligence Agency recently used Facebook to help boost applications for the national clandestine service. The move sparked concerns that the CIA was monitoring members, which the agency denies.
”Earlier this year, the CIA used Facebook - an excellent peer-to-peer marketing tool - to advertise employment opportunities with the agency,” said George Little, a CIA spokesman. “This effort, part of a much broader campaign leveraging traditional and new advertising media, was used strictly for informational purposes.” [source: US launches ‘MySpace for spies’. Demetri Sevastopulo. FT. Aug 21, 2007. ]