Be careful what you do both on and off Facebook.

Re-thinking the Role of the Media: What is Facebook Doing With Your Info?

Facebook users have always been anxious about the effects Facebook is having on their lives, and rightfully so. As you’ll find out in the post below, Facebook’s data collection and the way they present this data to their advertising partners consists of far more than what meets the eye.

Since its creation, Facebook has been consistently criticised for collecting and storing data about its users; this is nothing new. Facebook states right in their Privacy Policy what data they collect about you and how they use it. However, Facebook has also come under fire for padding out their User Agreements with seemingly meaningless statements, in order to further discourage users from reading it. So what exactly is Facebook doing with your info, and how does it affect us?

Facebook is a free service; their #1 source of income is serving targeted advertisements to their users. From a corporate perspective Facebook is, at its core, an advertising company. They make most of their income from serving advertisements to an audience targeted to specific groups the advertiser wants to reach. This is done by collecting info about their users’ activity both on and off Facebook (more about this later) and breaking users down into demographics.

So how does this affect our lives? Advertisers on Facebook are able to target different ads to different groups of people, and these groups can be made incredibly specific. I created a Facebook Ad campaign to see what kind of demographics advertisers can target to using the data Facebook has collected:

The list of options Facebook provides to advertisers - their primary source of income.
The list of options Facebook provides to advertisers – their primary source of income.

Facebook gives companies the ability to target ads to people depending on their relationship status, sexual orientation, level of education, ethnicity, employment status, the age of their children, travel plans, and apps installed on their phone; among other things. Is this an ethical treatment of users’ data? When businesses advertise on Facebook they are given the ability (perhaps even encouraged) to concentrate their ads towards stereotyped groups of people. It’s safe to say many people would be at least a little disturbed by some of the “Defined Audience” groups mentioned above.

However, Facebook’s tracking of its users isn’t limited to Facebook itself. Facebook can also gather information about your behaviour on any website or app that you log into with Facebook (such as Spotify, Candy Crush, etc) and use this data to further categorise your profile.

Many Facebook users accept that Facebook is collecting and retaining their data, but most aren’t aware of how far this data collection goes – that Facebook is tracking you even after you’ve logged out. The vast majority of people who use Facebook don’t know that ads are being targeted to them based on things such as their ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc; and would certainly think twice about creating an account if this in the first sentence of Facebook’s privacy statement. There’s simply no way for regular users to know how their information is being presented to advertisers, not even in Facebook’s privacy policy. This gives Facebook users every right to be anxious abut the effects of Facebook on their lives, and to what extent they are being stereotyped by Facebook and their advertising partners.

There have been countless news articles and blog posts on this issue and although they receive large amounts of attention via Facebook (the irony) there’s never any lasting effect on how we use social media – it’s already too deeply embedded in our lifestyle to quit any time soon. Just the way Facebook wants it.


References:

Cover imageFacebook’s privacy policyFacebook’s Ad Creation pageWhat Does Facebook Know About YouMySecureCyberspace – What Facebook Collects and SharesSlate – What Facebook Won’t Tell You About Personal Data Collection.

Not sure if new medium, or mutation of an older one

The Medium is the Message

In relation to the BCM112 content for Week 2, The Medium is the Message, I took a photo to depict how old mediums can mutate over time into new ones; as is the case with the vinyl turntable which lives on today in the form of the CDJ. The medium of the vinyl became the icon for music playback in clubs and music festivals today, and is an excellent example of a medium becoming the message.

This is my Imgur meme post.