Was Facebook's Privacy Move a Blunder or Just Premature?

 
 
By Evan Schuman  |  Posted 2007-12-04 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Opinion: Now that Facebook is having to face its about-face, the privacy-versus-marketing debate is revving up.

Now that Facebook is having to face its about-face (readers, please forgive me), the privacy-versus-marketing debate is just revving up.

This RetailWire story nicely sums up the action, but the essence is that Facebook tried sharing-without permission-customers' purchases with people on their friends list.

Did Facebook cross the line? I'd rather say that they made this move inappropriately. The difference is that I do agree with Facebook that something very similar to this program could work, but it needs to be presented properly and at least start with more-than-ample opt-out options.

Facebook is right that this is a huge marketing and advertising opportunity and that their customers could benefit from this. But they didn't properly sell those benefits to users.

Targeted ads based on private history are dicey stuff. Sharing private purchases with everyone on a friends list is an order of magnitude touchier.

It needs restrictions (for gift giving or other sensitive situations), but a modified version of this might work well, say, one year from now. The prospect of having a surprise birthday gift ruined is one thing. What about the married customer whose spouse is alerted that the customer is purchasing lots of red roses or diamond earrings, which the spouse never sees? Lots of dangerous situations potentially there.

Gift card trading site company Leverage, for example, is trying to push the envelope with advertisers allowed to pitch customers based on their gift card holdings along with self-reported "demographic, psychographic, gift occasions and travel plans."

If we're ready for psychographically-selected ads (as opposed to what we typically see with GoogleAds, which would be more accurately labeled psychotically-selected ads), it's hard to argue that Facebook overreached. But a little more selling of the benefits and permission-getting might have made a world of difference.

Retail Center Editor Evan Schuman has tracked high-tech issues since 1987, has been opinionated long before that and doesn't plan to stop any time soon. He can be reached at Evan.Schuman@ziffdavisenterprise.com.

To read earlier retail technology opinion columns from Evan Schuman, please click here.

Check out eWEEK.com's Retail Center for the latest news, views and analysis on technology's impact on retail.

Now that Facebook is having to face its about-face (readers, please forgive me), the privacy-versus-marketing debate is just revving up.

This RetailWire story nicely sums up the action, but the essence is that Facebook tried sharing-without permission-customers' purchases with people on their friends list.

Did Facebook cross the line? I'd rather say that they made this move inappropriately. The difference is that I do agree with Facebook that something very similar to this program could work, but it needs to be presented properly and at least start with more-than-ample opt-out options.

Facebook is right that this is a huge marketing and advertising opportunity and that their customers could benefit from this. But they didn't properly sell those benefits to users.

Targeted ads based on private history are dicey stuff. Sharing private purchases with everyone on a friends list is an order of magnitude touchier.

It needs restrictions (for gift giving or other sensitive situations), but a modified version of this might work well, say, one year from now. The prospect of having a surprise birthday gift ruined is one thing. What about the married customer whose spouse is alerted that the customer is purchasing lots of red roses or diamond earrings, which the spouse never sees? Lots of dangerous situations potentially there.

Gift card trading site company Leverage, for example, is trying to push the envelope with advertisers allowed to pitch customers based on their gift card holdings along with self-reported "demographic, psychographic, gift occasions and travel plans."

If we're ready for psychographically-selected ads (as opposed to what we typically see with GoogleAds, which would be more accurately labeled psychotically-selected ads), it's hard to argue that Facebook overreached. But a little more selling of the benefits and permission-getting might have made a world of difference.

Retail Center Editor Evan Schuman has tracked high-tech issues since 1987, has been opinionated long before that and doesn't plan to stop any time soon. He can be reached at Evan.Schuman@ziffdavisenterprise.com.

To read earlier retail technology opinion columns from Evan Schuman, please click here.

Check out eWEEK.com's Retail Center for the latest news, views and analysis on technology's impact on retail.

 
 
 
 
Evan Schuman is the editor of CIOInsight.com's Retail industry center. He has covered retail technology issues since 1988 for Ziff-Davis, CMP Media, IDG, Penton, Lebhar-Friedman, VNU, BusinessWeek, Business 2.0 and United Press International, among others. He can be reached by e-mail at Evan.Schuman@ziffdavisenterprise.com.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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