Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Internet advertising/marketing data collection service

More and more, I've been glad I dumped Facebook when I did. The only negative for me is that I didn't go ahead and request total account deletion when I dropped out, meaning that if I ever log back in again my account will still be waiting. I figured it would be okay for me to leave an "empty" account hanging instead of going through Facebook's torturous account deletion process, but when I read things like this, I'm not so sure:

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- A Facebook privacy policy revision intended to make the site's methods more transparent is instead kicking up a fresh firestorm.

Facebook posted a draft version of its revised terms on March 15 and gave the site's users a one-week comment period to weigh in with questions and suggestions. The changes include many semantic tweaks, like stripping the word "privacy" out of Facebook's "privacy policy," which is now called a "data use policy."[...]

Facebook's current policy says: "When you use an application, your content and information is shared with the application." Its proposed revision amends that line to: "When you or others who can see your content and information use an application, your content and information is shared with the application."

The idea that apps your friends install can access your information disturbed many of Facebook's commenters. As one put it: "Strongly disagree -- why should I be dragged into apps my friends are involved with?"

You already are. Facebook's current terms allow apps to tap into all of the information that the app's users have access to, Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes told CNNMoney. [Links in original--E.M.]

Honest question: if Facebook's name more accurately reflected the kind of business it really is--if it had been called something like "Internet Advertising/Marketing Data Collection Service" or something along those lines, would any of us have ever signed up in the first place?

I'm sure that some people still would have done so because they or their families and friends find the quick "information dump" style of Facebook communication convenient and time-saving in their busy lifestyles. Other people would still have signed up for the fun and games, the quick and easy connections with the people they haven't seen since high school, and so on. But I think that many of us would have stayed away, and many more would have joined only hesitantly and with careful control over the friends they accepted, the types of apps they used, and the level and kind of personal, shopping, and lifestyle information they shared not only with their friends and families but with third-party advertisers who pay Facebook a ton of money to have the kind of targeted consumer access that previous generations of advertisers could only have dreamed about.

Instead, many people are only really realizing long after the fact that social networks such as Facebook exist to sell them: their information, their habits, their shopping choices, their lifestyles, and anything else that can be turned over for a profit, that is, to the highest bidders.

Maybe in this age in which that kind of data is ubiquitous and easily collected by people lots scarier than mere advertisers, it's a bit silly to worry about overexposure on Facebook. But then again, maybe it's still a good idea to step back and decide, from time to time, whether the social networks we use are taking much, much more than they are giving, and whether our use of them is still a good thing. And maybe it's time for me to get around to requesting that account deletion...


Alisha De Freitas said...

I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. The advertising thing creeps me out. But so does my lack of control when it comes to using it. I'm currently off FB for Lent and I have such an increased feeling of peace. More time for prayer, playing with Zoe, reading and writing. I have friends who have been calling, texting and emailing since I've been off. They were worried! Lol, I'm actually happier.

Anonymous said...

I never really got started with it. It's not so much that I'm 'old-fashioned', but have too much on my mind already, without attempting to corral thoughts in broadcasting news about anything. I'm the one that starts journal after journal, only to find that I cannot find it when I have something good to write, or have lost the pen, and as for recording things on a computer, I have forgotten or lost the passwords so many times, it's a wonder I find my way home. As a matter of fact, sometimes it takes a good long while for me to mull over an occurrence before it comes out of my head in any rational way.

I think I might have a FB account, but I wouldn't know how to access it, if indeed I am on FB. (Too much technology for my slow-wittedness.) A lot of people talk about their news, and tell me what they would've said as they know I don't know how to make it work, so it doesn't matter much, really.


Charlotte said...

1. Erin, you know I used to have an old account on FB, before I started a new one. I let that old one sit deactivated for over a year. Just a few weeks ago, I deleted it. It took 2 minutes to do so, so I don't know what the tortuous part is?

2. I have thought of you often since you deactivated, given that the "projected" changes that were happening then - which scared you off - never really seemed to happen. I had been wary, too, and it all came to nothing. It stayed exactly the way it was since you left.

3. I never use Facebook apps. NEVER. It is possible to be on Facebook and have a great experience and never "allow" a single app or game into the process. In fact, while everyone's FB experience is different, I've barley seen anyone using or suggesting apps at all. No more Farmville requests, no bothersome polls. I think everyone saw how silly it was and how annoying. I think that kind of Facebook experience is fading away, except for maybe the kids and teenagers.

4. I had a love/hate relationship with FB, too, until I started all over and only became friends with people who were REALLY my friends. I also vowed never to discuss religion or politics on FB, and voila, FB turned into a vastly different experience for me, one that was pleasant AND one that wasn't so obsessive. When it was arguing and debating all the time, it was a hateful thing.

5. My opinion, lately, has been that FB is turning more and more into an advertising stream, rather than a place where friends meet up. I say this as a middle-age adult and not someone who is 22 years old - which are vastly different experiences, I think? I "like" alot of commercial FB pages to get coupons and notices of sales, etc., and more and more, that's the way to get those coupons and deals. Thus, my FB is now 75% ads. Some days I hate it because I have to LOOK for status updates from friends. But the thing is, many of them don't update their status all that often anymore (like me, my updates are reduced, overall), and so it might be that everyone is beginning to have a similar experience - Facebook is commercial and becoming more commercial and will soon be nothing but an aggregator of personalized advertising that you generally asked for and agreed to. You know, a running stream of Groupon offers. Do I like that? No. But that's the way everything is now - even your local newscast.

Just opening up and using the internet allows somebody, somewhere to collect data on you. (Hello Google!) Facebook is just one of many. To me, it's not a winning battle, and there are better battles fought, anyway.

Tony said...

The question to everyone is: Would you be willing to part with maybe $10 a month for a completely private Facebook alternative?

I end up paying with what personal information I enter. I have to agree though, when FB changes the policy in legalese in the fine print, they ought to tell you exactly how it affects you and how to mitigate their changes.

They really pi$$ed me off when they defaulted posts going to Everyone without telling me. I had it set to only post to my friends by default. I had to go back and change all my posts (some of them political, not to be viewed by... say... my boss).

Yakov Jimbeam said...

In my country, Facebook looks at you.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

The only way Facebook makes money to justify its exorbitant $500 billion stock price value is selling the advertising convenience of its database. That is also why they let people open accounts for free. TANSTAAFL!