Mark Zuckerberg’s personal mission to sell thing you things is now even more next-level than it was previously, as Facebook has long delivered “targeted ads” to users based on anything you put into the site, from interests to wall posts to status messages. Now testing with 1% of Facebook users, the company is enabling “real-time” ad targeting, Ad Age reports, which allows your words to be mined even quicker and turned into sales pitches up to the moment. For instance, “Users who update their status with ‘Mmm, I could go for some pizza tonight,’ could get an ad or a coupon from Domino’s, Papa John’s or Pizza Hut.” Your unpublished thoughts are safe for now.
But this is still terrifying:
In general, users’ posts and updates are collected in an aggregate format, adding them to target audiences based on the data collected over time. Keywords are a small part of that equation, but Facebook says sometimes keywords aren’t even used. The company said delivering ads based on user conversations is a complex algorithm continuously perfected and changed. The real aim of this test is to figure out if those kinds of ads can be served at split-second speed, as soon as the user makes a statement that is a match for an ad in the system.
Something blah blah, corporate babble, said Reggie Bradford, CEO of Facebook software and marketing company Vitrue. “This is a massive market shift everyone is pivoting toward, led by services such as Groupon. Facebook has the power of the graph of me and my friends placing them in the position to dominate this medium.” What? No.
There’s a certain type of Facebook user, one tied to the site via family and far away friends, but without an addiction and with a new, healthy dose of self-loathing come every sign-in. This user has probably suspended his or her account a few times, but ultimately been dragged back, never working up the will to delete it fully. (Sometimes life is boring, even on the internet.) But as these additional, “user experience” features get more complex, and more invasive, this sort of casual participant, but conscious internet user and consumer, is pushed more and more toward the edge of the Quit For Good cliff. Or only can only hope.
Granted, this is a tiny, minuscule slice of Facebook’s unimaginably large user base, and this isn’t exactly a camel-killing straw. But if MySpace can lose 10 million users in a month, maybe it’s worth holding out hope that we won’t all be branded with bar-codes just yet.