Privacy, Social Media, Targeting and Marketing: Poked and Pwned

Logging in this week to my so-called virtual life, one constant and growing buzz is over privacy in social media and targeted marketing. I had meant to blog about something else, but the noise is too just to loud. While the Canadian Privacy Commissioner’s findings on the CIPPIC Complaint against Facebook are by now old news, the afterburn continues. Polices and practices adapt, and at the end of the day consumers want what they want. Who’s pwning who? Today’s choice updates from the world o’ privacy:

1. Facebook Asks More Than 350 Million Users Around the World To Personalize Their Privacy: Following on the heels of last week’s Open Letter from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s press release today asks its users to update their privacy settings. In order to improve user privacy control, Facebook is removing remove regional networks, and creating new settings that will allow users to select and customize content to be viewed by friends, friends of friends, or everyone. Facebook states that controls have been added for each item, privacy settings have been simplified, a Transition Tool is provided to help users update their settings and to learn more about privacy by accessing the new Facebook Privacy Center guide.

2. Facebook Safety Advisory Board formed: Closely linked to privacy is security. A few days ago Facebook also announced the formation of the Facebook Safety Advisory Board in an intiative to improve online saftey. Facebook plans to review existing safety resources, develop new materials, and consult on best practices. The goal is to create a comprehensive resource, including educational content for parents, teachers and teens. The Board is composed of five organizations from North America and Europe, acting in a consultative capacity. The announcement comes shortly after recent coverage of the New York Attorney General citing Facebook’s cooperation in identifying and disabling the accounts of registered sex offenders.

3. Yahoo BETA tool lets users decline behaviourally targeted ads: Yahoo released its Ad Interest Manager in test form this week. The tool purports to allow users to opt-out of interest-based advertising altogether, or to select topical categories. This is an interesting development as media and advertisers scramble for eyeballs and try to track metrics, attempting to target consumers with relevant ads to engage them and make them want to watch. However, when I tried to use the Ad Interest Manager, neither IE nor Firefox browsers were “qualified” to use the category selection tool for opt-in. The tool supposedly allows consumers to view a summary of their online activities, but how this function worked was unclear. The tool also states “We may customize some ads based on information sent to us by your computer and cookies. These ads are not interest-based.” Finally, I was able to click on the big yellow button to opt-out interest-based ads entirely. Verdict: fascinating, but the jury is still out on the execution.

4. FTC targets behavioral targeting: As media and advertisers scramble to self-regulate, U.S. regulators are itching to regulate. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Federal Trade Commission held a day-long conference this week on online advertising and behavioural targeting. Of interest: the potential for stricter online privacy rules to limit some practices, to provide consumers with more transparency about how they are tracked, and to make it easier for consumers to opt-out of tracking.

Meanwhile, back in the Great White North, we await more news on Canada’s anti-spam bill, The Electronic Commerce Protection Act (Bill C-27), which passed through the House of Commons on December 1 and is proceeding to the Senate.


  1. I am so glad that Facebook is taking precautions to protect it’s users. Many young teenagers use this site and there are too many creeps out there that could easily find them.