Facebook Ads: Invasive or Necessary?

The older I get, the less I post on Facebook. I still recall memories of posting my every interaction, every picture in the timeline of my life. Now on the occasional search, my home page typically has three things: political fights between 20-somethings, overshared Buzzfeed articles, and the occasional “I said yes” photo.

But recently, I’ve been seeing an advertisement for a specific product that I’ve never seen before, “Team Weaver” t-shirts by the company teespring.com. At first I thought- wow this is cool, an advertisement that directly targets me. Yet the more I think about it, the creepier and more invasive it gets.

Facebook has been specifically designed to promote personal brands by the things you post, share, and tag on your profile.

Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, says this in her 2010 post titled The Role of Advertising on Facebook:

Because our system chooses which ads to show you, we don’t need to share any of your personal information with advertisers in order to show you relevant ads. In order to advertise on Facebook, advertisers give us an ad they want us to display and tell us the kinds of people they want to reach. We deliver the ad to people who fit those criteria without revealing any personal information to the advertiser”

As a Facebook user, you sign a specific contract allowing Facebook to store you information and have it readily accessible when needed, but if what Sheryl is saying is true about designing ads targeted the information on my profile, I would think that the ads for Affordable Windows, Arizona Summit Law School, and TaxAct wouldn’t make their way to my home page. Yet I do agree, adding Dominos in there was spot on.

Fast forward a few years since Sheryl made that statement, and this article for The New York Times states that Facebook is now going outside sources of data to learn even more about them — and to sell ads that are more finely targeted to them. A few of those sources include Acxiom which focuses on public information such as federal government documents and court records, while Datalogix and Epilson claims to have a database of spending habits of everything from which brand of toilet paper you buy to your Netflix obsession.

Although Facebook assures users that their personal information is completely anonymous, I still feel uneasy about the amount of data that is stored about me and my personal life, but I guess that’s the price we pay for living in a tech savvy generation that pushes consumerism.

So what about you, do you think Facebook’s use of outside companies is only a stepping stone to further boundaries pushed in order to play match maker with the perfect product? Or do you trust Facebook, and say it’s all for the good of the consumer?  Either way, with advancements in technology like this, they’re bound to find more ways to get these ads to you in the future.

-Crystan Weaver