Best Friend or Big Brother – How Innocent is Facebook?

The Friendly Face of Facebook

It is easy to fall into the trap of believing that Facebook is your very best buddy.  Not only does it provide a social interface but it is also a fantastic communication tool which allows you to your message to whoever will listen. It is also a great source of news and gossip and can even act as a confidante.

Facebook knows all about the music you like, your friends, the food you enjoy, where you go on holiday, what makes you laugh, your favourite films, your taste, your political persuasion and even what you did at the weekend.  In fact, Facebook knows an awful lot of information.

Social Media Site or Corporate Business?

Try browsing a few websites and then return to Facebook.  Almost certainly one of those sites will now appear as an advert on your Facebook page.  Is this a happy coincidence? Do you get a warm feeling in your stomach because your “best buddy” knows what you like? Unfortunately, just as in real-life the relationship with your best buddy does not always run smoothly and telling Facebook all your details may also have its downside.

The appearance of those ads is far from innocent. All those “Likes” may seem like fun and you may even win a free holiday, but what else are you signing up for?

Apart from extending the market reach of specific businesses “Likes” enable Facebook to provide you with carefully targeted ads.  For example, by giving a “Like” to a garden centre you are also signalling to Facebook that you are interested in plants and gardening.

Is Big Brother Listening In?

Whilst the majority of the population are extremely careful about data protection this seems to go out of the window when it comes to Facebook. Would you really want a stranger to know intimate details about your life? If the answer is negative then it may be time to think about the data you post on Facebook.

Facebook may have started off as a social media site but its main priority these days is to generate revenue.  Its annual revenue from advertising is over four billion USD with companies such as Ford, Budweiser, HSBC and McDonalds amongst its biggest clients. Facebook itself is worth over $100 billion.

In order to retain lucrative advertisers, which include companies as diverse as Disney and Starbucks, it is essential that Facebook continues to provide target audiences which match the advertisers’ needs. This can only be achieved by using the data provided by users.

Next time you use Facebook will you be chatting with your friends or simply providing invaluable data?  By providing advertisers with target markets which match specific criteria Facebook is able to retain advertisers and continue to increase its profitability.  Are you still getting that warm feeling?