Facebook is actually sharing your conversations with advertisers, which sounds like a serious infringement on privacy, at the very least. Facebook’s new topic data offering to advertisers means that the social media network is opening up their data so that advertisers and marketing specialists can access the database and search for keywords with which they can target people with their ads. That means that once an advertising company starts searching for a keyword, for example “pepsi”, then they would be presented with results that include age, location, likes and other personal information of users. The data Facebook offers up to these advertisers is anonymized, so there won’t be any mention of your name in the search results, but that’s not a lot of data protection.
Facebook has partnered up with DataSift in order to launch a new analytics tool called Topic Data, which advertisers will be able to use for free. According to Mark Zuckerberg and co. “Topic data shows marketers what audiences are saying on Facebook about events, brands, subjects and activities, all in a way that keeps personal information private.” But DataSift and Facebook partners who will be given access to the new tool in the U.S. and the UK will still be able to access a huge amount of personal data. That includes timeline posts, status updates, conversations (although the company hasn’t made it clear whether private messages will also be provided through the tool).
According to the official blog post introducing the new Topic Data tool for marketers and advertisers, “With topic data, we’ve grouped data and stripped personal information from Facebook activity (not including Messenger) to offer insights on all the activity around a topic.” Take what you will from that quote, but it sounds like private messages will also be accessible to companies for marketing purposes. Although Facebook stresses the fact that the information provided will not be used to target advertisements, it most likely will be used for that, regardless.
Facebook isn’t technically making any money out of this tool at the moment, as DataSift will be offering the service to select partners for a subscription fee which has not been disclosed. But with the tool, marketers will be able to target their ads more effectively and thus buy more advertising space on the social media network, which translates into more profit for Facebook, in the end. The Topic Data tool has already been launched in the U.S. and UK. Expansion is very likely, although a timeline of when the service would be rolled out to other regions around the world has not been provided by either Facebook or DataSift, whose technology is being used. That means that users of the social media network located in these regions are already having their status updates and conversations monitored and sold off to advertising companies. Way to go, privacy on Facebook. You can’t opt out of this, either.