Sunday, April 17, 2011

Facebook is selling your information to advertisers

There's an article in the Los Angeles Times this morning by Jessica Guynn about how Facebook is mining its users' profiles, status updates, posts, likes and friends, and selling that information to advertisers. Guynn gives an example: "If a Facebook user becomes a fan of 1-800-FLOWERS, her friends might receive ads telling them that she likes the floral delivery service."

"Facebook says it does not disclose information that would allow advertisers to identify individual users, but filters them based on geography, age or specific interests," Guynn writes. "It also lets users control whether companies such as 1-800-FLOWERS can display the users' names to others to promote products."

Perhaps someone can explain to me how an advertiser can show an ad to your Facebook friends which is based on your interests and which contains your name, and yet not have received any personally identifying information about you.

Here's a link to the complete article:,0,1887797.story

Update 18 April 2011: The Guardian UK has posted a video interview with Cory Doctorow in which he points out that users of social networking sites are actively rewarded—with attention, links, friends, etc.—for disclosing more personal information online, resulting in what he calls a "privacy apocalypse." You can view the interview here; Cory Doctorow has his own site,, where you can also view this interview, as well as find links to his articles, stories and books.


  1. Funny. I liked how at the end of the article, the woman named Julee Morrison, stated "Wait a minute, I didn't give you permission to look into my life,” It amazes me how naive people can be. No one reads the fine print, or takes the clue, if there is a fine print maybe what you are signing up for may have some back handed malarkey pending for their financial success.

    I just read this article in the Sacramento Bee, today being the 24th it must've just been a fill piece. Started doing some research online for my own blog and came across this. But funny enough, I was on the and discovered that as of the 13th, they went to a facebook only commenting system. Wonder how long it will be until the ad data profiling will work its fingers onto their site. Hmmmmm....

    Like your blog btw!

  2. Katie, thanks for the kind words about Exotic & Irrational.

    Yeah, I'm amazed at what we're not aware of--but then I realize that I'm just as guilty as anyone else of clicking "I agree" without reading all the fine print. There's a reason that those licenses and policies are incredibly long and filled with dense legal jargon--it's to discourage us from reading them.

    Still, Facebook has offended against its members' privacy so often that you would think that people would be on their guard. But when companies like the LA Times force you to join Facebook to participate on their sites, our range of choice is drastically narrowed.

    Thanks for your comment!