Have you ever wondered how much Facebook knows about you? Given all the information you have willingly provided — along with the stuff you have not but it gained access to anyway — it’s quite a bit.
For years, most of us never really concerned ourselves with that fact, rather we just kind of looked the other way as we enjoyed the benefits of staying connected with friends, family and even businesses. That has all changed, of course, but it doesn’t mean Facebook has done an about-face as well.
No, while the site says it is focusing more on privacy and user experience, it still wants to keep learning about us. The reasons vary, and how you feel about them may very well depend on how you feel about Facebook as a whole.
But really, they are collecting a LOT of data
When it comes to what Facebook knows about us, Kim put it pretty nicely.
“If it sometimes seems like Facebook knows you personally, that’s because it does,” she wrote. “It has algorithms that track what you like, watch and click on, and then it passes that information on to Facebook advertisers.”
Free to users, Facebook makes its money off of advertising, which is improved — or at least more valuable to companies — with it knowing more about each of its users. But it’s one thing to just assume Facebook has a lot of data on us, and it’s another to know exactly how much.
And when totaled, Facebook can classify roughly 52,000 traits of each of its users. Did you even realize you had 52,000 traits? They did!
There are three key algorithms
Of course Facebook does not have an employee watching your every move, logging what they see and moving on to the next person. Instead they use algorithms to help decipher the information and learn about us, with three of them being the most important.
One of them, DeepText, looks into a large swath of information, much of which coming from commercial data brokers. Another, DeepFace, is there to identify people in pictures and suggest users tag others who are in the image with them.
The third algorithm is FB Learner Flow, which focuses on the decisions you have yet to make. Wait, what? Yes, it uses predictive analytics in order to decide which ads should be shown to which people.
So, in other words, its goal is to know what you are going to do before you do. If effective, what else might Facebook try to predict about us?
Will things be shipped to us before we even order them?
If anything, Facebook’s desire to learn more about us probably stems from needing to remain competitive in an increasingly intense digital marketplace. There is only so much to go around, and Amazon and Google, respectively, have been grabbing some pretty big slices of the pie.
But to remain competitive while offering a free service, Facebook will have to turn to methods and technologies that could make many of its users pretty uncomfortable. How about predictive shipping?
Could the predictive technology lead to Facebook, in partnership with its advertisers, sending out products before they are even ordered? If the algorithms are that good at predicting things, why wouldn’t it?
To some, that might sound like a good things. To others, it’s actually quite creepy. Regardless, Facebook is certainly not done growing and trying to cement its place in the digital world.
How they go about doing it remains to be seen. How we’ll feel about it and what, if anything, we’ll do, is entirely up to us.