The Facebook privacy conundrum

TLDR: Every internet product that is free to use is monetized (or will be) via advertisements . Now, the companies behind these free services have to maintain a balance between user privacy and data collection to show relevant ads.

Facebook earned 98.5% of 2018 revenues through displaying ads on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and third-party online properties (websites or mobile applications.

Now, Facebook delivers its ads to users based on user profiles and Facebook’s algorithms to match marketers’ desired target audience to deliver measurable ROI on marketer spend.

if the product is free, you are the product

The list of attributes Facebook tries to know about a user to create the above said profile is huge. You can see the linked info-graphic for the same. https://wordstream-files-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/documents/Facebook-Targeting-Infographic-WordStream.pdf

For the advertisement business of Facebook to prosper, it is best that they know everything about you. And for the platform side of the business, like the user base of Facebook/Instagram/WhatsApp to prosper they need to maintain a high level of privacy. At least now that people are concerned 😋

As per the Marton Barcza (from @Tech Altar / Friday Checkout) Facebook started sharing the data back in 2016 ( 2 years after acquiring the company )

The excerpt from the Wired article makes it clear that we already pawned our privacy for relevant ads back in 2016. At least the majority of us.

On Monday, WhatsApp updated its terms of use and privacy policy, primarily to expand on its practices around how WhatsApp business users can store their communications. A pop-up has been notifying users that as of February 8, the app’s privacy policy will change and they must accept the terms to keep using the app. As part of that privacy policy refresh, WhatsApp also removed a passage about opting out of sharing certain data with Facebook: “If you are an existing user, you can choose not to have your WhatsApp account information shared with Facebook to improve your Facebook ads and products experiences.”

https://www.wired.com/story/whatsapp-facebook-data-share-notification/

With the advancement of data science and the prediction models, connecting the dots (data points) is fairly accurate. So, Facebook doesn’t actually need to know your average monthly income. It can put you in an accurate salary bracket by knowing things like, which car you drive, which phone you use, which area of a city you live in.

What these means is that, although the messages are encrypted end-to-end, WhatsApp can still make fair assumptions based of some seemingly innocent data point it collects from your environment (phone, browser, WiFi network).

calling out the shady marketing used by Facebook/WhatsApp

And, Facebook is pouring enormous money into educating partial information to the naive users. Thanks to the likes of Marton Barcza who see through the facade Facebook/WhatsApp is putting up in the name of user privacy.

It is definitely a challenge for the large enterprise to maintain a balance between user privacy and specific ad targeting, especially when there are new players popping up in the internet space on both sides (advertisement and social media)

And as Hitesh from LearnCodeOnline advocates, we the citizens of the internet should get used to paying for the services we rely on instead of seeking for free alternatives, because as some great individual said and I quote :-

Origins of the quote are documented on Quora: https://www.quora.com/Who-originally-suggested-that-if-youre-not-paying-for-the-product-you-are-the-product

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