Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

How well does Facebook target ads? Check your own Ad Board

September 3, 2010

I am not a firefighter

With the bevy of personal information and preferences Facebook has collected about me, I have been consistently surprised at how poorly Facebook seems to target ads.

See if you agree. While logged into Facebook, visit your own Ad Board, which collects in one place a set of ads that are rotated through your pages:

Facebook Ad Board

How many of those ads seem relevant to you? For me, it’s not even 20%. And most of the ads in the 20% are relevant only due to geography.


  1. Facebook hasn’t yet made a science out of targeting ads based on your profile, at least to those in my demographic. Another indication that their targeting is still primitive: even though users can delete ads and provide feedback on relevance, those actions don’t prevent deleted ads from reappearing; so apparently they haven’t really connected user feedback to ad selection.
  2. By (conservatively) not allowing third-party ad networks to apply their own profiles in targeting ads in Facebook, ads in Facebook don’t leverage those broader profiles the way ads on many large sites already do. To the extent data collected from “Like” buttons are or will be applied to target ads within Facebook, you can expect this to change.

Are you “attractive and intelligent”? To advertisers, that is.

September 1, 2010

Targeted advertising can at times be unsettling or annoying, as discussed in recent articles about retargeting by retailers.

I will admit to finding the ad on the left a bit unsettling, since it was targeted by Facebook to my daughter, a first-year in college. Knowing my interest in ad targeting, she dutifully captured it for me, along with the selection criteria on the advertiser’s website ( I can proudly (and quite honestly) say that her fine genetic material is exactly what they are looking for, although she has declined to participate.

I’m not at all troubled by the notion of donated eggs, or even the notion that egg brokers advertise online. What I wonder about is what elements in her profile were used to target it, and how can she control them? Even though I know Facebook has promised not to share this kind of profile information with advertisers directly, that distinction may be lost on many folks who see ads like these around sensitive areas.

Better disclosure will help, as will real ad-profile control. In the mean time, ad targeting around sensitive offers like this one are bound to be unsettling for even among the most hardened ad targets. Given Facebook’s stake in the future of targeted ads, you might expect them to apply a tighter filter on eyebrow-raising targeting like this.

Party pooper: Facebook mobile privacy

August 19, 2010

At the risk of being a party pooper in today’s rehabilitation of Facebook’s privacy image, I’d like to ask:

Why can’t you see and adjust your privacy settings in the Facebook mobile app?

I hadn’t noticed this until I updated my iPhone app (3.1.1) to check out their new location-based services. As far as I can tell, there’s nothing at all about privacy in the mobile app (or in the settings), not even a link to open your privacy settings in the mobile browser.

Over 150 million people access Facebook via mobile apps, no doubt for many it is their exclusive or primary mode of access. (You can even set up a new account directly through the app.) You would think native privacy settings would be a baseline product requirement for Facebook mobile apps.

It’s not too hard to do — a company called Mobile Distortion has a nice looking step-by-step free app to manage your Facebook privacy settings. Not as elegant perhaps as Reclaim Privacy on your computer, but useful nonetheless.

This seems like a big omission. Am I missing something?

Hunch and Facebook: Permission Denied

August 5, 2010

The newly relaunched, a nifty recommendation engine, asks you to login using Facebook Connect or Twitter. The Facebook Request for Permission is striking (and appropriate) in its detail, showing real progress in Facebook’s privacy disclosure framework:

Maybe I’m unique, but this continuing level of access to my Facebook information (and that of my friends) is more than I’m prepared to provide in exchange for free recommendations. Plus, there’s no indication how this can be undone if I change my mind.

The link here to Terms of Service probably isn’t as pertinent as would be a link to Hunch’s privacy policy. Unfortunately, the Hunch privacy policy doesn’t provide any clue of how they handle Facebook information, since apparently it hasn’t been updated for the relaunch.

As a result, my choice was “Don’t Allow.” Puzzlingly, pressing that button simply refreshed the page and restated the request. There’s no option to allow use of less information — like perhaps just what is already public — even if I’m willing to live with recommendations that aren’t quite as good.

My takeaway: Great example of how privacy architecture must be fused with product design in order to tap into the value of user profiles. For this user at least, Hunch hasn’t cracked that code just yet.