Early this month, The Australian reported that Facebook was facilitating predatory advertising practices to target vulnerable youths. The Australian’s source was a leaked confidential document that discussed how Facebook monitored its users’ content to figure out when young people were feeling defeated, stressed or stupid.
This information could then be used against vulnerable users by advertisers. These tactics leave many concerned about the ethical boundaries of Facebook and what they really stand for considering that the social media platform allow users to be targeted in this way. Facebook’s power comes from users who agree to these risks.
Other websites that users visit sell the information to Facebook through Facebook Ad Exchange or Facebook Custom Audiences, also known as FBX.
Now Facebook is allowing marketers to buy ads across the web using Facebook’s data. Advertisers affix tracking software to their products, which Facebook then allows into its system so that advertisements can be tailored to users.
In a 2014 article in Advertising Age, Facebook stated that it would no longer honor the do-not-track setting found on web browsers. The decision was made due to the fact that there is no existing consensus among the powerhouse technology companies, including Google and Twitter, on whether to honor the browser setting.
There are also internal advertisements within Facebook, generated by a user’s likes and shares, which are then used to create a customized stream of tailored advertisements, suggesting a very plain and simple marketing plan.
Under the Digital Advertising Alliance, which is made to help protect consumers, one may opt out of these advertisements in Facebook’s preferences. However, even if one does opt out, Facebook is still collecting what its officials call “passive” data.
There are other ethical concerns, like discriminatory and false advertising. These are things still prevalent today because of how massive the outlet has become. Facebook is partnered with over 4 million advertisers, making it likely that some crazy companies get through.
This is not the first time that Facebook has come under fire recently. Last month, a murder scandal occurred, in which a user livestreamed a murder he committed. The video remained online for three hours before it was taken down. This brought up concerns about whether it should be Facebook’s job to police its content when the site claims to stand for the creativity and individuality of its users.
Facebook is a reflection of society and it walks a thin line in both these situations, as do all other social media sites. They are used as tools both by good and bad people, and the data that Facebook gathers from its users can be used by both types of people.
However, it is hard to imagine any of these sites being able to finance themselves without the money they make from advertising. It seems the only thing that can save people from the dangers of these websites is being cautious.