Facebook privacy concerns may scupper their advertising

From an advertising perspective Facebook is a dream. With the data it has no it’s members it can offer a very accurate behaivoural targetting of it’s ads. And Facebook has made a great success of it. Whilst it was struggling to make money last year, in 2010 their advertising revenue has sored. Comscore measured Facebook as offering over 16% of all ad impressions online.
However, to the Facebook member, behavioural targetting, and more importantly, privacy issues are not a dream, but actually a nightmare. Many of the recent changes in profile status etc are aimed at improving FBs appeal to advertisers. This blog here, expresses some of those concerns. We may see a situation where FB is loosing as many members as it gains with it’s changes to their privacy and user settings. And I’m not making it up. Look at the huge traffic surge on wikiHow on how to delete a Facebook account.
Long term, if I was Facebook I’d be worried.

And after behavioural targetting we have …

… mobile network behavioural targetting.

There’s been quite a bit of press this week about Google starting to use behavioural targetting in their advertising. If you’re not familiar with this, the concept is simply that Mr Google will use cookies to track the sites you visit and then serve you relevant advertising. Of course Google who’se policy is ‘Don’t be evil’ have assured users that there is nothing sinister and that they will not store sensitive site visits, nor store any personal information.

Understandably, many users are concerned at yet another breach of privacy. Perhaps in the grand scheme of things, Google’s behavioural targetting is only a small example of breaches of privacy. Maybe we should be more worried about governments and living in the most watched societies ever?

The concern over Google will pale into insignificance when the general public realise that mobile network operators are working on their own version of behavioural targetting.

In terms of gaining information, network-based behavioural targetting offers some distinct advantages over the Google version. The networks know where you are. (And they know where you live). They know that you spent last Friday night in Hoxton and that you go went on trips to Paris and Barcelona. Their justification will be that the adverts can be better targetted to the individual and that individual will benefit because information will become more relevant.

Unfortunately few people trust the mobile networks. Unlike Google their moto seems to be ‘Do be evil. And why don’t we charge the customers as much as we can whilst we’re at it.’ It is hard to image how the networks will run their behavioural targetting responsibly and easy to image that they will alienate the mobile user further.

Fortunately network behavioural targetting is a few years away. It seems that only government regulation will prevent any evil behviour, so lets hope that there is some stringent legisation in place by the time the networks are ready to chase their advertising revenue.