A lot of fuzz this morning about Facebook’s SocialAds and Beacons. Charlene Li from Forrester got her first personal, unexpected and unwanted encounter with Facebook ads as she found to her surprise that in her Facebook newsfeed there was a reference to a purchase she had made at overstock.com. Her biggest complaint about Facebook ads is the lack of transarency.
There is a whole movement arising now that want to put the pressure on Facebook. MoveOn.org is taking on Facebook Beacon ad strategy. They think it is a violation of Facebook user privacy. Facebook has respondend, saying the information is only shared with your friends, so no privacy issues there. Josh Catone responds to this and says that MoveOne.org might not be making a point that really concerns Facebook users, as it only has 8.000 people joining up right now. He is not so concerned about the Beacon project, but warns that a better and global opt-out switch (which isn’t there) would be good for the user. But he comes with another privacy issue, Facebook applications now seem to have access to your e-mail address.
I feel privacy is an issue, but not a major one. Lets face it, if you join Facebook and assume your personal information is only shared with your friends then you are, to say it nicely, a bit naive. I have to answer numerous questions these days about my relationships with friends on Facebook. This is all part of the Social Graph exploitation model in Facebook. I don’t answer any of these questions. Not because Facebook would use that information for SocialAds, but because it doesn’t provide me any value as a user. I already know I went to high school with you dude, no need to write it down.
Looking at the different comments sections the readers are at least widely spread in their opinions about Facebook SocialAds. Going from “They got to make a living” to ” I’m leaving this overhyped crappy service”. Mathew Ingram gets it right (yet again), stating these woes are overstated. He says:
As Justin notes, 100 times as many people got upset about the news feed as joined the Moveon protest, and that one blew over eventually. Maybe Facebook will tweak things so it’s more obvious, or give you the blanket opt-out ability — or maybe not. I think it’s mountain and molehill territory myself. Will I have to ignore news feed items about people like Charlene buying coffee tables? Sure. Just the same way I ignore people telling me they just added the Zombie application. Big deal.
And that is exactly what will happen. People will ignore it. It doesn’t provide them any value so SocialAds and Beacons will be yet another play toy for the advertisement industry that is ignored by the consumer! The business model just doesn’t work, as it isn’t based upon user value. I always like reading e-Bay’s Rolf Skyberg about user needs. He breaks it down into things that matter to a user. And that is still the best business model there is.
We are all getting ready for thanksgiving dinner. I wonder who is the turkey to be served by Facebook. Is it the user, or might it be the advertiser who has spent $16 Bln in 2007 and will be spending $42 Bln in 2011 in on-line advetisement and thinking he gets targetted audience from Facebook? I think Mark Zuckerberg will have a great meal, either way.