Thursday, March 28, 2013

Facebook knows what you “like” and probably much more

By: Scott Stein, VP of Client Services, Leonard & Finco Public Relations

When I open up my Facebook page it’s no surprise that the ads in the right hand column focus on cycling, photography or music, since many of my “likes” on Facebook fall into those categories.  

But when I’ve opened Facebook lately, I’ve also noticed ads for Spokane, Washington. How does Facebook know that we’re heading to that part of the country this summer for a family wedding?

Of course, Facebook knows because my wife and I have been online looking up things about the Spokane area and Facebook knows what I do online. It’s part of their “targeted advertising strategy” as the social network looks for ways to increase advertising dollars.

But instead of just relying on what people “like” on their own pages, Facebook is now also partnering with several companies to collect valuable behavioral data. Working with companies like Acxiom, Bluekai, Datalogix and Epsilon, Facebook is getting information that ranges from spending habits and transaction information from retailers to website tracking and info from financial services companies, court records and federal government documents.

In a recent New York Times piece, Facebook’s product director for ads, Gokul Rajaram, said Facebook’s goal is to “improve the relevance of ads people see on Facebook and the efficacy of marketing campaigns.” He adds that “it’s ultimately good for the users. They get to see better, more relevant ads from brands and businesses they care about and that they have a prior relationship with.”

For businesses, and as a consumer myself, that seems to make sense. I do pay more attention to those ads that focus on products I may be interested in. But I’m a bit concerned that everything I do seems to be tracked. And, yes, I made the move to be part of Facebook to be social and to share information with “friends.” I just wonder who else is paying attention to my browsing and buying habits.

What do you think? Should I be concerned? Am I just paranoid?

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