Facebook is massive. It officially reached 2 billion active monthly users recently, doubling that number in merely five years. Think about it, that's about a quarter of the world's population. That's stunning growth and there are no signs of it slowing down anytime soon.
In the pursuit of connecting people through cyberspace, one characteristic about Facebook that keeps people hooked is its constant introduction of new features to keep users on its service. It also tries to keep the people that matter to us the most closer than ever.
However, this new Facebook scheme, although it aims to do the latter, is causing concern among users about privacy and security, especially with family members.
The scheme is called "household targeting" and it aims to display ads that are relevant, not just to one user, but to other family members as well. Advertisements can then appear on each member of a family's accounts or to specific people in a household that make the purchasing decisions.
For example, just in time for the holiday rush, the same advertisements for vacation spots will be shown to an entire household. Or in the case of gifts, ads can be directed to specific people in the family that are more likely to buy rather than receive the gifts.
The social media giant hopes this kind of wholesale advertising will influence families to decide more as a group or to find more appropriate gifts to give to a particular family member.
“What we want to do basically is leverage the power of our network to enable that kind of influencing or to support that kind of influencing across the family,” said Graham Mudd, Facebook’s product marketing director about the new scheme.
To identify whole households, Facebook uses algorithms to track last names, "check-ins," location data, IP addresses and other personal and status information posted on its site.
Facebook's household targeting has barely rolled out but it is already raising a few issues with users. Some are saying that the scheme can spoil birthday presents by revealing what was bought. Families can also be put in awkward situations if someone frequents inappropriate websites or dating services. Other users are just concerned about the amount of tracking Facebook and they're afraid that this will only add more to it.
Although it has its own share of benefits, if you are concerned about this new household ad-targeting scheme, there is a way to opt-out. You can opt out by unchecking “member of a family-based household” category within Facebook’s ad preferences (Settings >> Privacy >> Advertising).
In response, a Facebook spokesperson provided us with this official statement:
"Household marketing has long been used by brands, in mediums like television, to reach customers. This feature does not enable the ability to run ads related to dating, nor do we use what people have searched for or browsed on the web to show ads (so it’s also not likely to spoil gift surprises). If people do not want to participate in household targeting, they can opt out entirely by removing themselves from the “Member of a Family-based Household” category in Ad Preferences."
What do you think? Is Facebook's household targeting creeping you out? Drop us a comment!