You have probably had this happen to you: You were thinking of buying something, maybe you talked about it with someone, maybe you researched options on the web and wham! You find yourself targeted by pesky, unsolicited ads that profess to be selling the exact same item you were thinking of purchasing. Welcome to the world of tech driven advertising.
Facebook is one of the biggest advertisers today, and ad dollars are one of the main sources of revenue for the firm. As such, it is in Facebook’s interest to ensure that to improve it’s advertising algorithms, and it has been doing so, without much regards for the implications for its users. According to a fresh news, Facebook is also using the phone numbers users provide to activate two-factor authentication for its own nefarious purposes.
Much as we wish that this was untrue, or even just a rumor, Facebook has owned up to the fact — after Gizmodo ran a story on the topic.
Interestingly, merely a few months ago, Facebook CSO Alex Stamos said that the spam notifications being received by users who had opted for two-factor authentication was actually a bug. In his statement, Stamos said:
The last thing we want is for people to avoid helpful security features because they fear they will receive unrelated notifications.
However, it seems like there was some major miscommunication………or Facebook purposefully choose to ignore the critical fact that it was using the numbers provided by users as part of the two-factor authentication exercise, to target them with irrelevant (and irreverent) marketing.
Why? While the more obvious and straightforward answer is “ad dollars”, a Facebook spokesperson had the usual “improve the experience” statement to offer:
We use the information people provide to offer a better, more personalized experience on Facebook, including ads. We are clear about how we use the information we collect, including the contact information that people upload or add to their own accounts. You can manage and delete the contact information you’ve uploaded at any time.
Meanwhile, these subterfuges are certainly worrying and raise questions about exactly how far this company is willing to go to make money, in a market where it has an almost monopolistic presence. We can expect WhatsApp to be the next ad-vehicle for Facebook, after co-founder Brian Acton lashed out at the social media giant for it’s revenue generation plans for the IM app it acquired for a hefty $19 Billion.