Facebook’s New Personalized Ad Strategy. Ethical or Intrusive…?

Yesterday while on Facebook I made a comment about my cell phone having issues with the time change and within 5 minutes began receiving ads for refurbished and new cell phones on my newsfeed.

A few minutes earlier, one of my Facebook friends was commenting on how he was getting wedding ring ads on his Facebook feeds. When I questioned about it, he had made the comment that Facebook knows everything and it got me to thinking.

How ethical is this new marketing technique really? After all, to specifically tailor the ads to things that someone feels may be of interest to a specific individual, Facebook delves into your personal life and reads all your posts to come up with these recommended ads. And they may be passing / selling this information to other individuals/firms. Plus the collection of this data is subject to exploit by hackers and other nefarious individuals, which now effectively makes Facebook totally open with virtually no real privacy whatsoever.

Now this marketing technique may be brilliant in Marketing terms as it really is pinpointed marketing, and in theory it should give an advertiser a higher click-thru rate, but is it ethical…? Do you want Facebook reading all your posts to decide what to advertise to you? Think about it!

I’m sure Facebook would claim they merely use an algorithm to scan posts for keywords and that is how they figure out what ads to show, yet that statement would be flawed as I continually receive ads to lose weight and get college degrees of all kinds, which I surely don’t need . I have previously expressed my views about these ads and whether they interest me, to Facebook in their queries of why I want to hide some of these obnoxious ads they put on my news feed.

Bottom line, I feel like a guinea pig, and to be honest I do not like this one bit. It makes me extremely uncomfortable.

Now I admit it is true that many Facebook users have put up compromising photos of themselves or made statements in posts, some of which could be used against them in legal litigations should the occasion arise. And once you put up a comment or a photo it is out there forever.

Homeland Security has access to all our emails and phone calls and Internet postings with the Patriot Act, which I sincerely feel is a total intrusion on people’s lives by the government. I also feel it should be unconstitutional as well, but utilizing national security as an excuse to invade the lives of citizens has become the norm in this country and the sad part is the apathy towards the relentless eroding of our core freedoms.

And now marketers are going to have the capability of harvesting extremely personal information about individuals and the masses…? Personal information that can be sold to terrorists or prospective employers or insurance companies for a variety of purposes. Information that can be used to create personal profiles, steal identities, hack into bank accounts, pass judgment and determine your worth and behavior.

Innocent posts can yield valuable information — for example it is your birthday and you make an innocent comment about your bank giving you a birthday wish at the ATM. You put a photo of the birthday wish with your bank’s name on Facebook. Now not only do people know your birthday, they know your bank. If they research your timeline they will know where you were born, where you live now, and in essence have access to a good part of your social security number. They can search for your address, find your phone number, and gain answers to information normally used in security questions for accounts like your mother’s name, best friend, pets, street you grew up on.

So when you think about it, all the little pieces needed to fill in the blanks to steal one’s identity are out there in plain sight. Getting worried yet…?

Now does this sound like an ethical practice? NOT! Absolutely NOT! This new marketing technique has got me to thinking and I now have become infuriated with this trend towards the dissemination of extremely personal information online for the sake of marketing and corporate bottom lines.

Just think. Facebook gathers all your basic demographic and psychographic data when you sign up. They also then give you a timeline where THEY determine the important highlights of your life. THEY decide what is of greater importance and what is of lesser importance in your posts. THEY decide which posts are of greater significance to notify you by email.

Then, by reading your posts they gather all the other essentials about your life – who your friends are, who are your closest friends, who your relatives are, what pets you have and their names, species, ages (great info for hacking passwords) plus all different kinds of information about you.

By the location feature they know where you are at any given time (if you let them), giving burglars an edge knowing when you are home. They know where you work, if you work and when you are at work.

They know when you are sick, and what valuables you have. They know what you drive, where you have been, what you like and where you will be going. They know what schools you graduated from. Know all your personal likes from you clicking on “Like” everywhere…

WAKE UP! This is totally scary. This is totally intrusive. And “sold” to us under the guise of a website that gives one happiness by letting one easily communicate with friends and relatives in real time. Under the guise of innocent fun… yeah… right…

Now I will admit I have found several of my good friends from the past through Facebook. And I like being able to chat and catch up with friends. That part is wonderful.

But in the grand scheme of things, this is all SO WRONG! It is SO UNETHICAL, SO INTRUSIVE, SO “BIG BROTHER.”

During the years I taught college Marketing courses, I suggested my students read George Orwell’s book 1984, the book that predicted the day would come when Big Brother would be watching our every move. That day came several years ago, and was exacerbated by 9/11.

There are “security” cameras everywhere. We can be tracked by our cell phones and mobile devices. Yet the majority of us do not really think about what this is doing to our freedoms… to our society… to our privacy…

We don’t seem to care about privacy or who knows what about us. We seem to care only about ourselves. Our immediate gratification. What’s in it for me. Making more money. Trying to keep our heads above water in a devastating economy. We are NOT looking at the big picture. We are NOT looking at the future of our society, nor the ramifications of these practices.

We are NOT looking at what this does to us as a nation. We merely look at our own bottom lines, our little sheltered worlds and if our bottom lines go up then all is fine.

Now I do commend the young creative marketing minds behind most of these new advertising ventures, but I question their motives and the ethics of the entire practice of this personalized advertising. I honestly don’t feel they have looked at the big picture. I don’t think they have looked at the long-range impact of implementing advertising strategies such as these personalized ads.

Because if they did would their consciouses allow them to proceed? To endorse this type of invasion of privacy?

George Orwell, in 1984, said:

“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”

Orwell also said:

“Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.”

And…

“The consequences of every act are included in the act itself.”
This says it all. Perception is all that really matters. How this gathering of minutia is portrayed to the masses. How much we believe, as a society, that it is for our own good…

As Orwell said:

“War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.”

And ignorant we are, when it comes to protecting our core freedoms… Will we rebel and stand up for our rights? Or will we continue to allow our freedoms to be eroded…

– Geri Konstantin