Posts with tag "Facebook"

Advertising’s newest snake in the grass

Facebook .. just another snake in the grass With what first started out as one of those momentous events in the world of advertising – or at least that is what Zuckerman wanted us to all believe, Beacon was let loose to a world beyond the walled garden of Facebook. The so-called brilliant idea being that any purchases of goods you made outside of Facebook and involved Beacon partners would suddenly find itself as part of you in-Facebook news feed. So besides the fact that all your purchases were now a part of the Facebook demographics, so were your actions outside of the Facebook wall.

As Beacon first hit there was no options available for the user to opt-in or to opt-out of this tracking system or to not have your purchases show up on your news feed within Facebook. In other words you actions in what should have been a private matter between you and the company you were buying from were suddenly being plastered on a giant billboard for everyone to read.

In the furor that has surrounded this use of Beacon the term of what opt-in means is beginning to sound suspiciously like the famous Clinton argument of “.. it depends of what your definition of is – is…”. Where on one hand we have Zuckerman’s suggestion that the moment you sign up for Facebook you have opted in to the Beacon service and that you have to effectively indicate in some way or another that you don’t want you purchase details broadcasted for everyone to see.

However the whole discussion over opt-in or opt-out may be entirely moot given some recent information that has come to light via a post on webomatica by Jason

What the article implies is that if you land on an affiliate site after logging into Facebook, and you previously used the “remember me” option on Facebook – you’ll receive a new Facebook cookie from the affiliate site. You should be prompted to “opt out” on the new site, but even if you do – the data is sent regardless.

So regardless of whether Facebook says it is or it isn’t collecting user data on a continuous basis even if they have opted out the fact is that at some point everything you do both inside the Facebook walled garden and now outside of it is being collected. It would seem that the only thing that selecting to opt-in does is make public the data Facebook is already collecting. As Tony Hung at Deep Jive Interests accurately phrases it:

Above and beyond the fact that opting out of “publishing the information to newsfeed” gives the impression that Facebook won’t actually be storing the information of the transaction (not just literally preventing the information being published), or even beyond the technical issue of it being sent to Facebook when you’re not even logged in, its the issue of behavioural profiling on a scale that would make Orson Wells have a heart attack. And yes, I’m quite aware he’s dead.

Whether or not the current crop of advertisers that have signed on to the Beacon system of consumer profiling continue to do so publicly once the furor dies down remains to be seen; but you can be damn sure that somewhere along the way that data will still make it’s way to anyone willing to pay the price for all that data rich information.

The one other aspect of all this white noise that is surrounding Beacon is the fact of what happens when some-one other than advertisers want a piece of the pie. After all it is nothing now for police agencies to subpoena Google and the such for any information related to a specific IP and get it. With Facebook though we have a name attached to all that information and do you really think that Facebook has a single constitutional leg to stand on when they get the police knocking on their door. Your information – all of it – would be willingly handed over and you have no recourse because the moment you click on the Submit button any expectation of privacy is gone.

While much attention is being centered around this whole shell game of the Beacon service there is a much larger picture to consider – your right to privacy and freedom from persecution which you just gave away to Facebook with a click of a button.

What happens if the Facebook Beacon goes out

Facebook and its monitizing nightmare At some point every so-called free web service has to find a way to monetize their works so those ever increasing costs can be covered and VC money begins to dry up as they look for their exit strategy with the piles of cash they figure is theirs. Facebook is no different except maybe that the financial windfall expectation are riding the tsunami of VC greed.

Much – if not the biggest percentage, of Facebook’s profitability is relying on their newly announced Beacon service which allows any purchases you make at Beacon supporting site to be displayed on your graffiti wall for everyone in the world to see.

Now I’m not going to get into how much I feel this is an incredible invasion of privacy which didn’t even exist when the vast majority of members signed of to Facebook. I am not interested in discussing how I feel that this implementation of Beacon being done after most people joined could in effect be the one thing that breaks any contracts you signed with Facebook when you clicked on that Submit button as part of the sign up process.

What I am here to talk about is something that Tony Hung mentioned in a post earlier this morning about the whole Beacon advertising platform on Facebook and how this ad program was a principal driving force behind its recent $15Billion dollar evaluation. As Tony said in the post:

This is good news for everyone, of course, except for Facebook, who has yet to really monetize itself in earnest, and more importantly was really betting the farm on this play. Rather, they were using the hype *from* Facebook Beacon and its social ads to pump up its theoretical evaluation to score a huge infusion of cash from Microsoft, and huge deals with Fortune 500 companies as well.

What will be interesting *now* of course, is if Facebook Beacon does crumble, how *will* it affect the deals it cut? Will any of them expect a (partial) refund? (perhaps a “restructuring” of their initial deal) And if it does affect the perception of this “advertising revolution”, will it in turn affect Facebook’s theoretical evaluation?

Aside from Tony’s main point about the real value of this billion dollar evaluation was a mention about Microsoft’s successful involvement of $240Million in order to gain a foothold within Facebook and it’s international display advertising reach. As Tony adds “…{regarding Microsoft’s purchase].. What is also kind of interesting, of course, is looking in retrospect how much of this new evaluation will $240M buy.”

To me this is the ultimately interesting question. After all Microsoft is no dummy when it comes to business and it probably has some of the most intelligent on their acquisition team as well as some of the best lawyers of the corporate work on their payroll. So I believe it would be a safe assumption that they walked into the negotiations that were going on with Facebook with eyes wide open and knowing exactly what the possible ramifications Beacon could bring about. After all this was the same company that had tried to bring a technology called Hailstorm to market.

To assume that Microsoft didn’t know about and talk about it in their backrooms shows little understanding of Microsoft as incredibly successful business. They had to know that the probability of what is happening would happen. So why go to the effort of the negotiations and paying out the $240M?

Well if the scenario where the backlash against Beacon is severe enough and has a dramatic downgrading of Facebook’s value one has to look at who is in there to potentially pick up the pieces of what is admittedly a popular social network for what could possibly be a fire sale price. In this case – an a totally hypothetical one – the $240M paid by Microsoft could turn out to be an incredibly well placed and lowball down payment on one of the hottest net properties that blew it discounted one thing – people just might actually value their privacy especially when it comes to how they spend their money.

Newsflash – Popping the Free bubble – people don’t care

Watch out for those bursting bubbles The big talking point that was obsessed over by the A-List glitterati during the news dead U.S. Thanksgiving long weekend was the call to arms by people like Dave Winer, Doc Searls and Jason Calacanis to force web companies like Facebook to give us back control over our data and if they don’t then it’s time to write our own rules.

On the other side of the argument are some equally smart bloggers like Tony Hung, Don Dodge and Duncan Riley who are suggesting that it really doesn’t matter because user’s outside of the blogging royalty couldn’t careless about what is being done with the data that is no longer theirs.

Sure in a utopian world where we all drink our daily dose of kum-by-ya we are the world and everything is free kool-aid this would be a non-issue as every web company would care about its users and treat them as partners in this brave new world of free stuff. Unfortunately we don’t live in such a world and such an event isn’t even on the horizon. The fact is every one of these web companies at the heart of this “lets fill up a dead news weekend with crap” issue are a business and the whole objective of business is to make money.

There is actually two points that this whole thing brings up and while the idea of our data as being controlled and being used as the foundations of billion dollar companies is a nice one to get the goodie two shoes crowd up in arms while they waited for their organic turkeys to cook it isn’t the only point of discussion.

The idea that we have any say in what is done with our data once it is in the hands of companies like Facebook is ridiculous. In fact the moment you click on that submit button on the last page of the signup form you have given away all those rights – read the damn terms of service and you will see that. That clicking of the button is your electronic signature – you have just signed a contract … you get a bunch of bullshit free services in exchange for the company being able to do whatever it wants with that data. It is now theirs and any subsequent updating of that data is also theirs.

I have maintained and written many times that companies like Facebook will have to pay the piper at some point for providing you with all these free things and the only currency they have is your data- well what was your’s. Individually that data may only be worth a few buck but collectively … well you can bet Zuckerman will be able to afford his own Dreamliner right alongside the Google boys.

You don’t like the ponzie deal you were offered you have one real alternative – stop using the damn service because the reality is that Facebook and their ilk might be forced to mouth a bunch of platitudes about data security and openness, but when push comes to shove the piper must be paid and nothing will change.

The second point of all this hot air discussion is do people – real people – really care what is done with this data to which Tony Hung quite rightly wrote:

The answer to all of the above questions is “Average Facebook users neither know, nor care about the intricacies and *importance* of owning, tending, and guarding, one’s personal data, information, and relationships — unless it directly and overtly impacts their own personal sense of privacy today.”

And Facebook knows it.

In fact, its billion dollar valuation hinges on it.

It hinges on the fact that somewhere deep inside Facebook, I am sure that marketers and venture capitalists are cooking up ways to milk the herd of all its worth without actually alerting the herd to what its doing.

You know, like that privacy thing about the news feed about a year ago.

Look we live in a world were people don’t even believe in global climate change, or they continue aimlessly on as their privacy is being slowly peeled away from them and the daily fight just to survive in a world where the middle class is disappearing is more important than what some faceless web company is doing with all that information pumping through their system.

The reality is that outside of the rarified world of the blogging elite no-one gives a damn and chances are they won’t. In the end this whole episode will disappear into the blogging ether by the end of the week (if that long) as new hot topics gain our attention and Facebook along with companies like them will keep on signing up new members by the thousands per day; if not by the hour and not one of them will care what is done with their data that they have signed away all rights to.

In the end it will be business as usual and the piper will be paid.

Let’s cut through the social crap

First off let’s get our definition of social sorted out:Let's cut through the crap

so·cial [ sṓshəl ]

1. relating to society: relating to human society and how it is organized
2. relating to interaction of people: relating to the way in which people in groups behave and interact
the social sciences
3. living in a community: living or preferring to live as part of a community or colony rather than alone
social insects such as ants
4. offering opportunity for interaction: allowing people to meet and interact with others in a friendly way
a social club
5. relating to human welfare: relating to human welfare and the organized welfare services that a community provides
social services
6. of rank in society: relating to or considered appropriate to a rank in society, especially the upper classes
7. sociable: tending to seek out the company of others ( informal )
a very social person
8. growing in clumps: describes plants that grow in clumps or masses

noun  (plural so·cials)
informal get-together: an informal gathering or party, usually of a particular group of people who meet regularly

Now can anyone please tell me HTF any of the above even comes close to relating to this marketing bullshit being put out by Facebook and their newly announced Social Ads; or even 99% of the crap that is being flown under the banner of Web 2.0 social this and social that.

Here we have a web company floating high on a paper valuation of $15Billion dollars that really is worth nothing more that the paper the valuation is written on who plan on taking on the AdSense money machine by using your data, making you a salesperson for which you won’t get paid for and on top of that they will be amalgamating one of the largest corporate databases of personal information that is updated daily to do with as they see fit.

Where in the hell is the social in that mess of corporate marketing doublespeak. As it stand right now the word social has become as bastardized as the word friend and companies like Facebook are making jumbo jet fortunes because we are losing sight of what it means to be a social being. Technology instead of bettering our society is turning us into faceless avatars occupying advertising networks imagining that we are making some sort of change.

While some bloggers feel that Facebook is selling out or others dread the idea of being faced with having Coca-Cola wanting to be their friend I am not surprised at all by Facebook’s move. It was inevitable – there were too many VCs wanting a return on their investment – and I am not surprised one bit that this is something that Facebook users will not be able to opt out of.

I have absolutely no problem with any company wanting to make money after all that is the whole idea behind having a business in the first place. Where I have a problem is with companies couching their money making behind a so-called cloud of social whatever and making that money without providing any remuneration whatsoever to those that are actually paying for the private jumbo jets. As far as I am concerned this is nothing short of a hoax on the grandest scale and a shell game that would make a street corner hustler proud.

Social my ass.