Networking for $

A few days after Mark Zuckerberg apologized for how Facebook handled the rollout of its Beacon and Social Ads programs–“We’ve made a lot of mistakes building this feature, but we’ve made even more with how we’ve handled them. We simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologize for it” (Wall Street Journal)–Facebook ads are in the news again. Using a service called Weblo Facebook members are placing ads on their own profile pages, their value determined “based on variables like how many friends they have in their social networks, and, thus, how many people will likely see ads on their pages.” Facebook’s terms of use prohibit such ads because, according to its chief privacy officer, “Facebook does not want people’s profile pages to become cluttered.” That’s disingenuous. My modest Facebook profile page, which features little personal information, no news feed, one photo, and few message, contains nine separate content panes. One would barely notice if it contained an ad or two.

This isn’t about clutter and page design. As the Beacon and Social Ad programs demonstrate, Facebook wants to convert the wealth of users’ personal information into ad revenue for its own coffers. This is the conflict inherent in social networking sites: the site owner provides the platform, the users provide all of the content, so who has the right to the economic benefit in the aggregate content? There would be no content without the users, but the total value of the individual browsing histories and purchasing choices of 1,000,000 users is far less valuable than the aggregate of that information. Only Facebook is in the position to obtain the maximum value from that aggregated information. Facebook could share revenue with those users who choose to share their information and reduce the incentive for individual ads. It should start by being honest about the issue these ads raise.

2 Replies to “Networking for $”

  1. YasminNouri

    I think Facebook is getting more ridiculous everyday. It’s ridiculous that Facebook prohibit the ends because it can cause a user’s page to be “cluttered.” I feel like it is in the decision of the user to determine what should essentially be on their profile. I’m surprised that with all the negative press Facebook has been facing within the past few months, they are still continuing their profit hungry ways.

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