The Ethics of Facebook Data Mining
for Advertising Purposes
Having a reasonable right to privacy is considered a human right, however, we give up this right in certain circumstances. For example, we give up privacy when matters of national security outweigh the right to privacy, but more commonly, we wave our right to privacy when using certain apps or websites. If you use social media apps or online search engines chances are you give up a lot of your privacy every day, willingly and happily! With current technology, we wave some, but not all, rights to privacy in order to use online services that are embedded into our society, but the benefits typically outweigh the cost.
The emergence of new media, storing data and data mining has perhaps led to an evaporating concept of online privacy. Every time we interact with the online world, we leave behind a trace, a digital record of our activity. Large media conglomerates then use computer and network surveillance to mine our data, our digital activity and footprint, when we use their services so that they can sell us to the highest bidder. Some say that this is not the "internet" we signed up for, yet billions participate in life online. One social media conglomerate controls the primary channels that people rely on the most to engage on the internet, Facebook. They provide services so integral that it is difficult to imagine the internet without them.
Facebook is the world's dominant social media company and a thriving platform for businesses to boost brand awareness. Their owned services mine user's data (the online behaviours, attitudes and interests they demonstrate) in order to sell them to paying advertisers. These are terms everyone agrees to; the cost of using the service. The reason for mining user's data is for advertising purposes. With the data they gather on every user's online habits, interests and lifestyle, Facebook is then able to sell advertising space on the user's main page.
Some call this a punch to our right to privacy; however, this service is free, and not forced upon anyone. An organization needs to earn capital to survive, and if they offer a service to the public that is free, they need to find other means of supporting themselves. In comparison, it is a similar system to radio. Radio is a free service for users, and they sell advertising time to earn money. Facebook simply uses a more structured system by mining user's data in order to create an advertising platform that is beneficial to both the business advertising and the potential consumer.
With Facebook's structure advertising system, businesses are given a platform to advertise to a consumer that is likely to use/need their products or services. For smaller and local community businesses, it makes a difference! For businesses, using Facebook as an advertising platform, takes out the hassle of conducting research like which services to use, when and where. The algorithm created by Facebook, provides businesses everywhere the opportunity to advertise to a targeted audience for far less money than traditional services like newspapers, radio or bus benches. Additionally, a structured advertising system like Facebook's is more effective for businesses to reach an audience that would be sincerely interested.
The consumer also reaps benefits from structured social media advertising. Facebook users are only shown ads that an algorithm has specifically curated for them based on their online behaviours and interests. With this process, consumers are no longer a target for every ad, but only to those which an algorithm believes may interest them. If for any reason the advertisement is offensive to the user in any way, they can request to never see this businesses advertisements again. In a traditional advertising setting, you have no choice or control in what or how you are advertised to, with social media advertising, consumers are given a form of control.
Using social media services does infringe on our online privacy, however, the benefits outweigh the cost. If we want to keep these services free for public consumption, there needs to be a give and take between the user and the provider. Social media advertising gives small businesses a fair price to market directly to an audience who demonstrates a need or want for their goods and services. On the other side, users are no longer a target for every business advertisement, simply ones that may be beneficial to them based on their online interests and behavious. Facebook's structured algorithm pairs consumers and businesses together for a mutual benefit.
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