Privacy and social media somehow always end up in the same conversation these days. From professional athletes foolishly tweeting offensive remarks to corporate brands saving face after a social media fumble, social content is generally met with varying opinions on open-source platforms like Twitter. In the world of Facebook, the social user’s engagement experience is limited to his or her network of friends (unless hash-tags are used).
But a burgeoning issue for Facebook privacy involves advertisers and the information that we share with them. Unfortunately, the new Facebook privacy guidelines neglect to address a popular concern for granting advertisers unfettered access to millions of Facebook user profiles. And instead, the ever-popular social media platform remains a portal to a dystopian, Orwellian world dominated by big brother. It won’t be long before Facebook users are literally swimming in targeted ads.
Facebook privacy guidelines have hardly changed. It’s the presentation that is different. We should all take note of that.
The reality is that no matter how many times Facebook privacy rules change, Facebook will take the strategic angle of downplaying surveillance advertising in favor of making sure you are safe within your own network of friends. Any Facebook privacy “changes” are only illusory – a fact that is supported by Facebook’s ironic copy campaign which declares “You’re in Charge.” The red herring of it all is that Facebook wants you to care about which of your friends can see what posts you make because this lets users feel as if they’re in control. Yet, Facebook doesn’t answer to your Facebook friends! They prefer to mingle with advertisers who have deep pockets. And thus, you do not (and will not) have the right to prevent advertisers from accessing your personal information. Creepy, invasive native ads will only continue to get creepier.
For advertisers, Facebook is a playground. Generating leads and geo-targeting customers is a piece of cake – and even our agency takes advantage of this sometimes. The issue, however, is not advertising itself. Instead, the larger issue is that advertisers know us better than our own Facebook friends. They latch on to our social personas and follow us around the interwebs, monitoring our habits for commerce and leaning over our shoulder when we read about the local weather. Advertisers are simply becoming too powerful and too intelligent. But it’s not just a Facebook problem. It’s a social media problem. It’s institutional. And every PPC platform on the internet is in on it.
An overhaul of the system might be in order before Facebook Privacy becomes a big problem.
If Mark Zuckerberg wants to be a leader in meaningful social media privacy protection, he should confront Facebook privacy guidelines head-on by offering users a “Do Not Track” feature, similar to what Mozilla Firefox has adopted. It’s the right thing to do. This probably all sounds psychotic and paranoid. But then again, we’re an ad agency. A protected consumer is in the best interest in the long run for our clients and our industry. Up until now, the only true protection against advertisers users have is to opt out of advertising from specific brands by selecting “Hide all ads from x brand” or “I don’t want to see this.”
Other than that, instead of the annual Facebook privacy update from corporate, a more useful disclaimer should liken to the labels we see on cigarette boxes and read something like: “Warning: The social network you are about to join will invade your privacy by funneling thousands of advertisers with more information about yourself than most of your friends would know. They’ll have more dirt on you than the NSA. Good luck.”