Facebook wants to show investors it can make real money with its mobile platform. According to The Wall Street Journal, the 900-million-plus social network plans to launch a new advertising product that will deliver targeted ads to the Facebook app, based on the other services users frequent. The feature will reportedly use information gathered from Facebook Connect, which lets users log onto third-party websites and apps — including Amazon, LinkedIn, and Yelp — using their Facebook identity. The idea is that the social network will monitor the services a person uses on, say, a desktop computer, and then shove an ad for that service into the Facebook News Feed of that person's mobile device. For example: If you use Facebook Connect to log into Yelp on your computer, Facebook might show you a mobile ad for the iPhone's Yelp app, and then charge Yelp a sizable fee if you elect to install it. The move, while potentially lucrative, is a huge departure from the industry norm, as chief rivals Google and Apple don't use such information to beam targeted ads at users. Is the social network's new advertising plan too invasive, or a smart progression in the largely untapped arena of mobile advertising?
Facebook has to make advertisers happy somehow: "No one should be surprised that the advertising industry would exploit every piece of information it can get its hands on to reach the individual," says Michael Hiltzik at the Los Angeles Times. Advertising has always been "intrusive to a degree," but consumers have the luxury of ignoring it, by thumbing quickly past a magazine ad or using a pop-up blocker online. That's the bargain we've implicitly made with content providers. But "the more intent we are at ignoring" ads, the louder providers will clamor for our attention — as they should.
"Ads invade our screens — and our private lives"
Consumers have every right to be incensed: Facebook users are already concerned about privacy, says Sarah Downey at BostInno. Remember last month's @facebook.com email address snafu? The last thing users want is for the social network to gather even more data about them. When Facebook allowed users to vote on a new data use policy, 87 percent of voters opposed the changes. Facebook users don't take kindly to the idea that they're "the product being sold," and likely won't in this case, either.
"Facebook's ramping up advertising; here's how it affects you"
Facebook could pull this off: If Facebook's "going to do it, they should be transparent about it," consumer privacy advocate Justin Brookman tells The Wall Street Journal. "Once you're signed in, are you really expecting that Facebook is going to be watching you while you're on there?" If the social network is clear about its intentions and provides a way for consumers to opt out, maybe the backlash won't be so bad.
"Facebook to target ads based on app usage"