Arguably the most important of these changes is the introduction of ‘Privacy Basics’, a simple database of how-to’s for all the security and privacy options across Facebook, from basic interface customisation to untagging oneself from those unflattering ‘double-chin’ pics. Also watch out for reminders when we go to post things publicly: “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.” These are all things already out there, but the Privacy Basics database will pull them all into one place and give users all the info on how to use them to the full. So, why is this good for business?
Of late Facebook user numbers, while far from slumping, have been suffering from slower growth. A percentage of this is down to security and privacy concerns by the user base, and Privacy Basics is part of Facebook’s way of reassuring the users and putting some confidence back into the platform. The better the confidence, the more users. The more users (especially those willing to share their data) the better for business and the long-term stability of the platform. Giving users the ability to alter their ad profiles gives them more visible control over their surface interactions with Big Data.
Imagine if advertising can target us by location. Imagine if our client The Cornerhouse (a prominent Nottingham leisure venue) could, without the use of iBeacons, etc. target you as you came into the vicinity? It could notify you: “Hi Nik, based on your preferences we know you like good food and the odd whisky, did you know Rocket@Saltwater has a deal on today?” Ads like this are only poor and intrusive if they don’t target you correctly. If we give our data freely, they will.
This is the beginning of the true semantic web where good quality information that’s relevant to us will find us, without the necessity for us to go looking for it.
Interestingly, and apparently unavoidably, Facebook also now states that when you make a purchase via a Facebook app, even a third-party app, it will collect your payment information. While the motivations behind this aren’t immediately obvious, this will be part of the platform’s future proofing and streamlining of the experience. It’s possible Facebook is considering spreading its wings beyond making money from just advertising, and is considering how it can sell products to users or facilitating payments between us and our friends.
Let’s hope Privacy Basics gives people the reassurance that control over some of the ads that the platform is displaying, isn’t outweighed by things like the collection of payment information which are (on the surface at least) somewhat off-putting. If there’s not a bit of a stink when this hits the media on January 1, I’ll be surprised. That said, they can probably afford decent PR!