You’re Both Product and Consumer: Microtargeting

We all know Facebook’s advertising is powerful. No surprises – they’ve been spying on us for years. Facebook perpetually mines data from its 2bn+ users, and then uses that information to target us. They know what you’re looking at, when you’re looking at it and for how long.

Facebook’s data harvesting and micro-targeting came under scrutiny during the 2016 U.S. elections; Cambridge Analytica unethically harvested 87 million Facebook users’ personal information and targeted user’s fears with ads, political pages, and specific articles. Facebook has so much data on its users that it can accurately predict the start of a relationship before it begins.

And then there’s Facebook’s relationship with third parties. The most popular heart-rate app on the Apple App Store immediately sends users’ data to Facebook as it’s recorded. The app ‘Flo Period & Ovulation Tracker,’ (25m active users) sends personal data directly to Facebook, including if the user had the intention to get pregnant. Many of the most popular apps sell their data to Facebook.

Facebook recently ended ‘Project Atlas,’ a program that paid teens $20 monthly to share all of their phone and internet data with Facebook via a VPN – some users were reportedly even asked to screenshot their Amazon order history. If Facebook will pay $20/month for a user’s data, just imagine how much money they’re making with that data. Unsettling.

Your data has become a significant source of revenue for all technology powerhouses.

While microtargeting has been abused in the past, a vast majority of data harvested by social media companies is used to bring relevant ads to relevant users. As our world becomes more and more digital, ads are likely to become more and more targeted.

Let us know how you feel about social media microtargeting in the comments.

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  • Marina
    Posted at 12:49h, 26 April

    “With great power comes great responsibility,” – Voltaire. With Facebook making occassional faux pas, it is hard to trust that the personal information is secured from third parties at all times. While I trust Fb not to exploit it intentionally, the third parties that get unauthorized access may do whatever they want, sexretlt, hidden behind the curtain. It will be essentially beneficial, when Fb openly says what collected data is being readable and which is encrypted.

  • Clara Mattucci
    Posted at 16:38h, 02 May

    Consumers have very little real privacy in such a digitally connected world; and for the most part I believe the public accepts some loss of privacy in exchange for convenience and personalized experiences. I agree with Marina on this: what is scary is that companies are not open about what data they collect and how they use it.

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