It is no secret that Facebook harvests the personal information of its users in order to sell it to advertisers. From allowing advertisers access to new baby announcements, to allowing marketers to match your phone number and email address to your Facebook profile and allowing Facebook to follow you around from site to site, Facebook has happily turned a profit to the detriment of their users’ privacy. Nissen tech lead Shinichi Yokote outlined how they use a tool called “True Teller,” which takes all of the data mined from Facebook to turn it into the data that would be useful for Nissen’s personalized targeting.
Says Yokote, “Its powerful filtering turns seemingly random data into strategic value. The data from Facebook is useless unless you refine it. You have to drill down through 20,000 or 50,000 data points to find the valuable data.”
Forbes magazine recently profiled a presentation (see below for link to full Forbes article) given by Japanese company Nissen Co, LTD at a conference hosted by Teradata, a data warehouse company. Nissen is a company that sends several hundred million paper catalogs, selling clothing, food and other consumer items. At the Teradata conference they optimistically outlined their practice of ensuring that consumers are getting the best possible catalogue, tailored to them. Says Shigeru Kakimaru of Nissen’s marketing team, “We customize the page content for each customer.”
Kakimaru went on to say, “Consumers now post a huge amount of data about themselves, their activities, and their feelings. We can learn the life background of our customers — their lifestyle and psychology. We can then target our catalogs accordingly. And we can predict when someone needs a product based on what they say on social media.”
Let’s take a moment to read this again:
“Consumers now post a huge amount of data about themselves, their activities, and their feelings. We can learn the life background of our customers — their lifestyle and psychology. We can then target our catalogs accordingly. And we can predict when someone needs a product based on what they say on social media.”
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Make no mistake, contained within this neatly wrapped package of supposed consumer concern is really another violation of user privacy. Nissen is mining user information to compile data into what is aptly named “psychographics” (if they’re basically stalking you, at least they’re calling a spade a spade). The psychographics include the life stage of each user such as relationship status, pregnancy, lifestyle change (like a new diet or exercise regimen), and upcoming events. They can determine if you have children, or not, bought a house or have a parent that is aging. They can even obtain information such as an upcoming volunteer event, the kind of food you like, and for which team you are rooting and if you have a pet.
In fact, according Kakimaru, it is extremely easy to find out if someone has a pet because they tend to post about their pets on social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. Nissen performed a test with two groups of female customers. One group got catalogs not personalized from Facebook for three months, while the other group got personalized catalogs that offered pet products. The personalized catalogs got higher sales.
While this all may seem like smart strategy to some, it is outright invasion of privacy to many, especially those who have no idea that it is happening.
And really, what this highlights is that users of Facebook and other social media need to refine their thinking – and make a paradigm shift: they need to stop imagining that they *have* privacy on Facebook, Twitter, or any other well-used social media site. These companies are in business *to make money*, and their users are their commodity.
As we’ve mentioned before, these types of user tracking practices begin when a user is simply using their Facebook log-in info to log in to another website, unwittingly agreeing to letting their internet usage be tracked by advertisers. It is always safest to never use your Facebook login information to access anything other than your Facebook account.
Read the Forbes article here.
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