Facebook is taking another step towards targeting users with specific, personalized ads that take into account who that person is, where they are located and what they are likely to be interested in. This is just another example of our privacy rights being slowly stripped away by web companies.
Starting on Thursday November 12, Facebook will allow brands to access the locations and personal history data of users in the United States. The brands will then have the ability to hit American Facebook users with targeted advertising. Additionally, brands will also be able see how many users “engaged” with their advertisements on the website during the previous four weeks. At least the data will be aggregated and anonymized, allowing for some privacy protection.
The move by Facebook might not seem out of the ordinary; other companies like Google use targeted advertising all the time. The problem is that it is just another step towards normalizing the practice of privacy intrusion. Both the locations and browsing histories of users are constantly being provided to advertisers, and people are simply sitting back and letting it happen. We have become accustomed to the fact that we are being watched, and we have begun to accept it.
Many people might be shocked by the sheer amount that Facebook is monitoring its users. According to one monitor, Facebook checked the location of a single individual a total of 561 times in a period of just 60 hours. Another report showed that the popular messaging app from Facebook, WhatsApp, checked the contacts book of a user nearly 3,000 times. Many people believe that Facebook purchased WhatsApp for the sole purpose of accessing the address books of users. The company paid about $18 billion for WhatsApp.
While the new monitoring program from Facebook has been confirmed for the United States, it is unknown if a similar service will be launched in Europe as well. Either way, American Facebook users should be extremely concerned about their privacy.