Facebook Digs Deeper into Your Personal Details
November 9, 2018
Facebook, a social media giant notorious for toeing the line of user privacy, has been in hot water before and it looks like they’re at it again. Well-known for the infamous Cambridge Analytica scandal which allowed businesses and political parties to gain access to user information, Facebook is now seeking a patent to target families with ads. It’s no political scandal, but it’s just as juicy, and has prompted a lot of heat on the internet.
Facebook only just got out of trouble, watching stocks fall as nervous shareholders pulled back. The patent, which was recently filed with the U.S. Patent Office, will allow Facebook to customize ads for entire households, as well as extended family, just by the photos they post. This could shed a different light on the common “tagging” social media users apply to their posts to tell other users who’s in the photo. If the patent works in their favor, it could mean more business on the ecommerce side of things, and a potentially untapped market for advertisers. Whether this will rejuvenate shareholder faith in the company or damage it further is yet to be seen.
What’s the Point?
Some users are more disturbed by this latest bit of news than others, and you might be asking yourself, “What’s the problem and why would Facebook bother?” This patent, which was filed early in May, will let the company reference faces in photos to distinguish repeated appearances by different family members and then reach out to each family member with similar ads based on these photos.
Facebook can already decipher much of the information which would point them in the direction of who lives where, and which family members live together, but the patent would open more doors to a deeper understanding of this information and more details. This digging for information online is called data mining and Facebook has basically announced an entirely new way to do this with their patent.
What Information Comes from the Photos?
By monitoring user photos, Facebook will be able to use descriptive keywords, user tags, and even the IP address of the poster to determine whether you live with your mom or your sister and who else is in the house. These demographics give Facebook a better idea of who they’re marketing to and how best to go about this. A house full of teenaged boys, for example, is more apt to click on an ad for the next Halo game, rather than a perfume ad. Socioeconomics, age, and gender are a few of the factors being considered.
The Dangers of This New Effort
While most families use social media, not everybody is open to the world knowing their family business. This is especially true of families with children, many of whom choose not to allow their kids to use Facebook. This new system helps Facebook guess (rather accurately) how many children you have, and even whether they live with you permanently or part-time due to a blended family situation.
The danger, of course, isn’t that Facebook knows you have two kids, a husband, and a dog; it’s what they do with this information that makes such an impact. Recent problems stemming from the Cambridge Analytical debacle proves the dangers of Facebook providing personal user information to third parties. It begs the question, “will the same thing happen with this new project.
Advertising for Targeted Audiences
Advertising has always been about delivering marketing content to a targeted group of individuals. For example, a hunting store has a prime demographic of men aged 20-50, while a cosmetic store has a demographic of women aged 18-35. Knowing these targets and creating and delivering content to them creates a higher probability of sales traffic generated within those demographics.
Knowing who’s in which house lets Facebook target the ads of companies who pay them big money to the right consumer. Sending ads to various IP addresses based on the users on the other end makes sense on paper, but it’s just a little bit creepy. At least that’s the concern of some users who have already begun voicing opinions online via forums and blogs.
This is a great opportunity for businesses advertising on Facebook, as it gains them access to pertinent marketing information they didn’t have before, but Facebook hopes it will be seen as more than that. While it’s certainly companies who will profit most from the patent, users are also getting something in their favor. They will no longer be forced to look at uninteresting ads which have nothing to do with them.
What This Means for the Future
The future of Facebook marketing is constantly evolving, making it unclear even what the new year will bring. One thing known for certain is that if this latest patent processes, there will be some new marketing tactics on the horizon in the form of targeted ads per household. This could be a game changer for holiday shopping.
There’s a potential that this new Facebook marketing algorithm could extend usefulness to small businesses and entrepreneurs. Social media marketing is becoming more dominant for businesses of all sizes and standards. Keep your eyes open for this new patent to make its mark and don’t be surprised if everyone in your household is seeing exactly what they want to see show up in the Facebook sidebar by Christmas. Maybe this will be a good thing, but it doesn’t make it less invasive.