Facebook - privateAt the end of June, Facebook seemed to be pushing the boundaries, and my patience, by offering user profiling to advertisers.

Now, in what looks like an Orwellian move by Facebook, it has decided that everything you type into your pages should become fully scrutinised and used for advertising purposes.

Urmmm, at what point were the users consulted? Fairly and openly?

It seems ironic in this day and age that on one hand we are asked to shred everything, lest information is used against us, now Facebook is using our choice for keeping our friends up-to-date as a way of making money out of “me” with an a huge assumption that I actually want to be targeted. Excuse me, Mark Zuckerberg, did you ask ME?! I wasn’t aware ‘you’ were even on my friends list…

I though there was a line? There is – and Facebook have just crossed it.

I feel is tantamount to misconduct and I am going name this for what it is: “Snoop-and-Serve” advertising.

Let me spell this out in no uncertain terms. Would you be happy with everybody reading the contents of all your emails? What about Google or Microsoft – is that acceptable? Would you be happy if I was listening and recording your phone calls to see if I can work out which car you drive, where you shop, or where your kids go to school for ‘advertising’ purposes? What about if I gave you free phone calls in exchange for letting me ‘listen in’, would it sit easier with you then? Are you happy me reading your bank account details in real-time to see if you are worthy of buying the item you clicked on in that advert? Are you happy taking any aspect of your private life and selling it to the highest bidder?

Profiling at group level is one thing, personal tracking is another.

Now I am all for technological advancement – even all about advertising relevance – but that is only if I ‘choose’ to be contacted by specific advertisers. Beyond that, there is a general assumption in advertising that you can not target specific individuals – we can only group people based on norms, providing they strictly do not lead to personal identification; so male, 30-40, IE user, etc. is the limit. Let me rephrase that. The Limit!

The Data Protection Act exists to provide people with anonymity. Going beyond these lines needs express individual permission and is a matter of law – or would you be happy for your bank to sell everything about you for whatever purpose they deem fit – advertising or otherwise – if they considered it to be a fair commercial decision on their part?!

Seems as though the general thrust of Facebook is that if I discuss details with a friend within a community based organisation, why should they not use it for commercial gain? We have a right to be consulted if we want to opt in to this targeting by advertisers, not an assumption, despite what an organisation has written into their terms and conditions. Laws deem it so.

Ah how the world has changed – perhaps Big Brother really has desensitised us after all. In 2001 there was uproar when Doubleclick tried to read cookies to determine advertising – ah but I a world full of terrorists, what have you got to hide

To simply put up and shut up is not an answer – neither is to shoot down nearest bolt hole – things never changed that way.

So no this not about naivety – it’s a wake up call – it’s a personal comment about trying to stop a run away train and where the Data Protection Act is out-dated. Things are getting out of hand and it is about time we said – stop, I want to get off! Advertisers themselves may not have direct access to personal data, but is consistent monitoring by others on their behalf really acceptable?

Trust me, you open Pandora’s Box now, you will not close it later. Make no mistake – there is a full-on assault to relinquish all your personal private rights – by the time you figure it out, a home shredder is not going to save you.

In response, I have set up a petition against Facebook, on their site to allow you to voice your concern:

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=4803277827

No doubt there will be some relevant adverts about ‘home shredders’ on there by the time you click through…