The Wall Street Journal has been running an extensive series of articles about highly effective internet marketing tools such as tracking cookies. Their motivation seems unclear since these techniques are hardly new to the e-marketing world. Nevertheless, this probing led to an unsettling discovery involving Facebook’s wildly popular apps. It seems these apps have been relaying sensitive user data to third parties for advertising purposes and privacy advocates are crying foul yet again.
While this news is unsettling since information was shared without regard for user’s privacy settings on the site, this whole issue is being blown way out of proportion. First off, no one joins Facebook to maintain anonymity. Everyone on the internet today either needs to come to grips with data collection or simply log off. Period. Advertisers utilize these methods because they produce results, not out of some perverse desire to record people’s mundane browsing histories. Besides, this type of information generates targeted ads that users are free to ignore.
There is nothing sinister about narrowing content to reach a target market. Television broadcasters employ similar methods, although their platform only permits them to do cater to a presumed demographic group on a large scale. For example, NBA basketball games are accompanied by commercials for products including Axe, Old Spice, and Gatorade. In other words, the ads are designed to appeal to male viewers of various age groups, from teens to middle aged. This practice doesn’t seem to raise any eyebrows, so its online equivalent shouldn’t make any waves.
It’s also worth noting that this has been taking place for quite some time without any users even noticing. This fact indicates the benign nature of a largely media driven crisis. Basically, if the Wall Street Journal hadn’t been reaching for a sensational headline, everyone would be playing Farmville as usual. As if a discussion of Facebook and Privacy rights weren’t ironic enough, there’s a trademark Facebook “Like” button at the bottom of the Wall Street Journal’s article. As of the time of 5:22 pm PST, 53, 407 Facebook users approve of this story in some manner. Obviously today’s confidentiality catastrophe will slowly fade into the distance, just like the last incident. Many media personalities predicted a mass exodus back in June, which never came to fruition because Mr. Zuckerberg is correct: Privacy is Dead.