[Air-L] With Friends Like Facebook ....

Ray Land ray.land at strath.ac.uk
Wed Jan 16 15:48:16 PST 2008


>>> the real question to a user is not, whether you like the people behind a site like Facebook, but if the application brings you benefits.
 
That strikes me as a rather curious ethical position to take, Sam.  Can we then generalise from that to assume that trading with governments, or any active organisation for that matter, who may be engaged in unethical or immoral practices, or subscribe to what we might consider offensive ideologies, is quite acceptable provided that we personally accrue benefit from it?  Isn't Hodgkinson's main point here not about the technicalities of how FB maximises returns from precision targetting of advertising -- he acknowledges that as a money-making machine they are sans pareil, with optimal returns for minimum outlay -- but rather that this is [so he claims] a thought-through, ideologically-driven social project, based on a rather worrying though perhaps accurate social philosophy (mimetic desire), that wishes to impose an illiberal ideology, manipulatively and exploitatively, on vast numbers of people unbeknownst to them, for the enrichment of a few.  For ,as he claims, a group of people almost the size of the UK have willingly volunteered their personal information to an organisation they know nothing about, and which appears to be backed by huge investment from funders with possible links to the military and security services.  Now, as earlier comments have pointed out, some of Hodgkinson's claims may be open to dispute, but if they *are* based on reliable evidence then I think it certainly does matter who is behind such a huge and growing global project, and that knowing more about who and possibly why they are behind it is a commendable and important endeavour in a democratic society, and a non-trivial issue.  Otherwise we will indeed be reduced to sheepishly mimetic desire, or, to use Hodgkinson's other phrase, be reduced to 'suckers'.  That I think for him is 'the real question'.
 
Ray
 
 
 
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From: air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org on behalf of Sam Liban
Sent: Wed 16/01/2008 21:41
To: air-l at listserv.aoir.org
Subject: Re: [Air-L] With Friends Like Facebook ....



Hi!

This is an interesting topic, allthough the article is surely a bit off in many ways...

In Germany we just had a couple of similar stories to the beacon launch of Facebook - that is many sites trying to change their
terms-of-service (TOS) in order to achieve a better ad-turnover...especially through personlized advertisement using the users
data to match the ads better.

According to StudiVZ, the German Facebook copy, 90% of their users were happy with such a change to using the data for
advertisement (unlike in the US, the companies/sites in Germany have to ask each and every user for an approval for the
slightest change in their TOS (German:AGB) or let them go if they disaprove).
Other sites though had to take their plans back in order to avoid loosing too many users.

Facebook also had to take a step back with the beacon idea, making it an opt-in now rather than an opt-out...as far as I
understand...

Also intersting was the fact (if it is fact, anyway), that Facebook ignores people not using the account anymore - it makes
sense, if you want to reach a couple of million users faster than others...as some will drop out now and then...I wonder why the
media still takes Facebooks numbers so serious if they really keep on the zombies in the numbers and actually state it in their
TOS...

As the internet matures on, it may be that each and every bit of information a site may seek from a user will have to benefit
the user in one way or the other...may it be in terms of a virtual currency, many additional features only available to the user
through participation (like in a Premium service) or other things, the user will find valueable.

Like Jacob mentioned, the real question to a user is not, whether you like the people behind a site like Facebook, but if the
application brings you benefits. And allthough it is merely a website, that allows you to enter your name, data and link
yourself with friends - I would say it does it for most of its users.

To advertisers it is still to be proven, that you will be able to benefit from such personalised data...a guy who drinks a lot
of Coke will not drink more because of the ads - and probably not switch to Pepsi no matter what they offer...I for one am a bit
sceptic regarding the hype around personalized ads...it is rather the theory of behavioural targeting and complementing products
and services, that will be of a real benefit to marketers...

To people and companies developing internet sites, the true question is how to generate enough profit...as unlike TV,
internetsites mostly get their ads paid only by success (Cost-per-click / lead / sale) and actually give advertisers free room
for image-campaigns, it is to be seen, if this will result in only the really big sites surviving or if the sites will tend to
reject per click/lead/sale offers..but then again, unlike e.g. the Writers Guild, site programmers and companies do not have a
institution to settle such an approach...

So while the heat is on personalized data, the true questions for marketers will be, what can be offered and how...and if it
really excels the sales of unpersonalized ads...and for the sites, how they can achive a sustainable income or even profit...

I think it is a very intersting time...so much data, so many new opportunities to gather data, so many new ways to try to
benefit from the data economically and the shift in what people view as their privacy and what not...

If anyone can show me the way to serious studies regarding a significant increase in sales through personalized ads, I would be
very grateful...

Have fun!

sam

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