A friend’s post in Facebook caught my eye:
While this is obviously a humorous take on three of the most visited sites today, I couldn’t help but reflect on the truth behind the satire. This is particularly true with Facebook, as it continues to grow rapidly as a social media juggernaut, collecting personal data from its users along the way.
The allure of setting up a profile and connecting with friends, from current buddies to long-lost pals, has persuaded millions of people from around the world into setting up a Facebook account. While only targeted for ivy-leaguers at its inception, Facebook has for a while now been available to virtually anyone with internet access. Facebook has managed to survive, and even thrive, where others like MySpace ran out of steam.
Facebook will soon become public in an historic IPO expected to reach the $100 billion mark. Facebook earns a majority of its revenue from advertising, which is fueled by the rich wealth of information that we share in the social networking service.
You may have seen your fair share of irrelevant, even funny, Facebook ads. However, you may also have come across several that made you at least consider clicking through. As a digital analytics professional, I have viewed ads about getting an internet marketing degree, registering for a service to improve inbound campaigns, and even one that had Eric Peterson’s face in it. Furthermore, if you allow your Facebook app to detect or publish your location, Facebook may combine this information with the knowledge that you posted pictures on Mediterranean food to send you an ad for that new falafel place down the street.
As Facebook continues to grow in size, we as users will need to reflect on the type of information we share online. If you find it frightening that Facebook can dangle ads that you may bite from time to time due to some random post about cupcakes, you probably need to start rethinking what types of information you publish for your online profile.
We have a lot of options to prevent or limit Facebook’s marketing reach into our daily lives. Obviously, we can simply delete or refrain from putting up a Facebook profile. If you’re fine with giving out your data but loathe the ads, you can block ads on your web browser using browser plug-ins. You can join privacy advocate groups who continually fight the battle against the Facebooks and the Googles to uphold the privacy rights of the masses.
It will be interesting how things shape up in the next few years. But one thing is for certain: it will be great theater. And when you need to get the popcorn, you can count on Facebook giving you some options as you are viewing your friends’ pages.