How Could Facebook’s Financial Troubles Could Affect You

Security & Privacy

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a huge fan of Facebook.

If you’re looking to connect constantly with friends online constantly and seamlessly there is no better way to do it than using Facebook. Since I use the site for free, I’m aware that I am Facebook’s product, meaning they need to market or monetize as much as what I do on the site to make it profitable. Knowing this, I do not think it’s a great place to be private but that’s not why I go on the site. For me it’s about sharing and connecting.

I’m also a believer in Facebook as a business. In a world where people where are doing whatever they can to avoid advertisement, people are friending brands and artists to get more information (also known as more ads). This creates relationships between people and brands that have never really existed in history. The many ways this platform can be used to build or grow businesses cannot yet be imagined. I expect that this holiday season and every holiday season, Facebook will set new records for enabling commerce and helping people find perfect gifts.

But as a devoted Facebook fan and user, I am aware that the financial trouble the company is in will affect my use of the site. When the company went public earlier this year, the stock did not maintain its value and recently it has tested new lows. What made Facebook great was a focus on experience but only a fool would assume that the financial situation the company is in won’t force it to try new methods to grow revenues.

One of the first examples of how your information will be used to market to you has just been announced. Companies that have your email or phone number will soon be able to use that information to serve you ads on the site. Facebook will anonymize the data so the companies won’t get any extra information on you unless you respond to the ad.

A natural response would be to wonder if you want this kind of targeting based on your information. Should you delete your number from the site? (Your email address is required.)

I’ve decided I will not because I like the ability to use my phone to get my account if it’s hacked, two-factor authentication and to get one-time passwords for use on public computers. And the companies that already have my email and phone number are likely companies I trust.

(You can remove your number if Facebook has it by going to Account Settings > Mobile.)

I am aware that anything I do on Facebook my ultimately be used to market me or to try to increase my friends’ interactions on the site. I’m also used to this idea of paying for content by enduring advertisement from television, radio, Google… But the thought of my social life being that content is always a bit scary.

Still, nothing much has changed. Facebook will only be able to share what I give it share. As always, my privacy is up to me.

Image by Johan Larsson.


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